CRTC: “Unresolved accessibility issues” and VRS

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CRTC: “Unresolved accessibility issues” and VRS

February 18, 2009

It’s all wrapped-up now! The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) finally finished its enormous public proceeding on “unresolved accessibility issues” in the first week of February.

This proceeding dealt with many Deaf concerns including television captioning and Video Relay Service (VRS). span>The CAD was a very active participant throughout the entire proceeding. Special thanks to Henry Vlug, who acted as our lawyer and who survived nearly two weeks of sitting in Gatineau and watching the “live” presentations that often went on for nine or ten hours each day!

The CAD, of course, argued strongly for an immediate creation of a fund, similar to the Telecom Relay Services Fund (TRS Fund) in the United States, which would become the funder of VRS. We argued that this fund should support open competition for more than one national VRS.

It is encouraging that not one single participant spoke in opposition to VRS or to the creation of a TRS Fund. It seems everyone supports these ideas.

The problem is how to pay for VRS and how much it will cost. One American VRS company frightened all of the Canadian phone companies and the CRTC commissioners by predicting VRS could cost $100 million each year! The CAD believes this number is wildly exaggerated. We believe VRS could cost about one-quarter of that amount.

All of the phone companies felt the CRTC should call another public proceeding to focus only on funding and operating VRS. The CAD opposes this suggestion. We pointed out that we already have the American example of “how to do it” and “how NOT to do it” and therefore Canada doesn’t need another long, long proceeding to “re-invent the wheel”. Deaf Canadians want VRS now without further delays.

The CRTC will now prepare its decisions and it will probably announce them in two-to-four months. If it decides to call another proceeding, then Canada probably won’t get VRS until the middle of 2010. If it agrees with CAD that no new proceeding is needed, then we might get VRS by the end of 2009.

You can read the huge masses of documents filed in the “unresolved accessibility issues” proceeding here: http://www.crtc.gc.ca/PartVII/eng/2008/8665/c12_200807943.htm