CRTC GETS IT WRONG WITH VRS … AGAIN!!!

News & Events

CRTC GETS IT WRONG WITH VRS … AGAIN!!!

August 26, 2009

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has finally released its decisions on the public hearing about unresolved accessibility issues”, which includes Video Relay Service(VRS). (See Broadcasting and Telecom Regulatory Policy CRTC 2009-430 at this link: www.crtc.gc.ca/eng/archive/2009/2009-430.htm)

Once again, the CRTC has gotten nearly everything wrong!

In February 2008, the CRTC asked Bell Canada to test VRS in Ontario and Quebec, while Telus would test it in B.C. and Alberta. Before the end of that year, Bell said it made no sense to go ahead with these tests, and they cancelled their plans.

In the public hearing in November 2008, and in written comments in January/February 2009, Bell joined Sign Relay Canada (SRC), Canadian Association of the Deaf (CAD), and Canadian Cultural Society of the Deaf (CCSD) in telling the CRTC that Canada needs national VRS’s, not provincial or regional ones.

Despite this united front of consumers and telcos, the CRTC has now stubbornly ordered Bell and Telus to proceed with the provincial tests.

As if this wasn’t bad enough, the CRTC has also told Bell and Telus they don’t have to start their VRS’s until 31 December 2011. That’s right — another two years before Canada gets VRS in even four provinces!

Bell and Telus will then have one full year in which to run their tests. In 2012, CRTC will call another public hearing to review the results of the tests, and then maybe they will decide how to run national VRS.

The bottom line: there will be no national VRS in Canada until at least 2013 !!!

No Canadian Access to American VRS:

The situation for Deaf Canadians became even worse with the cutting-off of Canadian callers to American VRS providers. Let’s get one thing straight here: Canadians were never supposed to be allowed to call American VRS. American VRS providers are mandated and funded to handle only calls based in the Many VRS providers, to be blunt, broke the law by accepting Canadian calls.

Ittook a couple of years for the Federal Communications Commission to finally realize what was happening, and it issued new orders to all American VRS providers to stop taking Canadian calls.

Using American VRS providers was nice for Canadians, but it was also illegal, and now we cannot do it anymore.

IP Relay:

The CRTC gave us one little bit of good news in its July 21st decision.

It decided IP Relay is a good thing, and it ordered all telcos, wireless service providers, and VoIP providers to provide IP Relay by 21 July 2010.

This decision finally recognizes the fact that TTYs have been obsolete technology for 20 years and it is time to push them out in favour of computer-based relay services.

Captioning:

At least the CRTC got it mostly right about captioning!

They decided there is no longer any technological justification for TV stations failing to provide captions. That includes French captioning. So from now on, broadcasters cannot use technology as an excuse for not providing captions.

Also, the CRTC noted that many advertisements, sponsorship messages, promos, and overnight programs are being captioned even though this is not a requirement.

Since the broadcasters are doing it anyway, the CRTC will now “expect” them to caption all of these things.

Broadcasters will soon be required to implement caption monitoring systems to make sure thecaptioning is included in programming and that it reaches the viewer “in its original form”. In other words, there will be better quality control. It won’t become mandatory until 2010 and 2011, but broadcasters are “expected” to implement the systems immediately.

The CRTC was not satisfied with the guidelines for standards of quality of captioning that were proposed by an industry working group which included CAD representatives. This is good, because the CAD representatives had refused to endorse the working group’s report and had filed their objections to it! The CRTC has given the working group very specific orders on how to improve the guidelines and has given them until January 2011 to file their final reports.