Monday, November 17, 2014

FCC Did Not Require Monitoring of IP-Relay Calls

Last week, perhaps in response to the uproar over Purple's announcement of ending its IP-Relay service, Purple had posted on Facebook selected snippets from a letter. The letter was blurred, making it impossible to read the full letter - even the date was not readable. However, since the October 15 letter from Purple's lawyer to the FCC informing the FCC that Purple would stop its IP-Relay service on November 14 refers to an October 2 letter from the fund administrator Rolka Loube to Purple, we have reason to believe that the snippets were from that letter. Unfortunately, the Facebook posting that Purple made to with the snippets, is now gone.

However, we found a copy of what could be the letter on our own hard drives.

Fortunately, Jamie had earlier typed up the snippets for easier sharing on Facebook, and now we share those snippets here along with analysis and commentary. We decided to share this here because we are still seeing comments in the deaf community that the FCC should not be requiring monitoring. The FCC itself has refuted that claim as seen in the letter dated November 17 from Chairman Tom Wheeler below, courtesy of  Andrew Phillips of the National Association of the Deaf.

This clearly says that they did NOT ask Purple to monitor call content.

Purple's choice of snippets was intended to bolster its argument that the FCC was gong to require monitoring per the transcript of Purple's video at "To be reimbursed for IP Relay services, the FCC has informed Purple that we must monitor call content and details." However, upon close and careful reading, the snippets actually prove the opposite!

RolkaLoube ("RL") the Administrator of the interstate TRS Fund, was directed by the FCC to withhold 100% of Purple's IP Relay payment for July 2014, which had been scheduled for distribution in September 2014, until further notice and the FCC advised RL that an explanation and questions will be provided.

Based on an RL review of the submission and observations shared with RL by Commission staff, including observations from the Commission's site inspection of Purple's operations in the Philippines during July 2014 and subsequent analysis of Purple's IP Relay call

Yes, the FCC was so concerned about possible fraud that they actually flew FCC staff to the Philippines where Purple's call center was, to see for themselves what was going on. Until we saw that snippet, we did not know that our IP-relay calls were being handled by CAs in the Philippines.

Specific findings that we warrant withholding include:

3. During the site inspection, Commission staff witnessed numerous calls in which the caller attempted and failed to gain access to bank accounts. Subsequent review of the call detail records found numerous attempts by individual callers to hundreds of banks. We find these facts to be indicia of fraud and potential violation of rules;

So the FCC staff actually saw calls come in from people trying to access banks - and not just a few banks! Multiple attempts by individual callers to hundreds of banks? If that isn't a red flag signalling fraud, we don't know what is.

4. Similarly calls were witnessed by FCC staff in which the caller attempted to order large quantities of specific goods from department stores. Subsequent call detail record review disclosed a high number of back-to-back calls by individual callers to many department stores from individual callers;

Here again, the FCC staff saw more red flags - individuals trying to order huge amounts of goods from stores. Again backed up by reviewing the call records.

5. Review of call detail records has disclosed a significant number of calls from single users making back-to-back calls to a high number of pharmacies;

The pattern continued with pharmacies, probably from fraudsters trying to get lots of prescription drugs.

8. Review of call detail records has disclosed a significant number of calls from ten-digit numbers that are active for only a few days.These numbers were associated with multiple calls to particular types of vendors - banks, department stores, and pharmacies, however Commission staff has advised RL that it is continuing to review and may find similar calling patterns to other types of businesses.

The FCC staff suspected similar patterns would be found with other business categories. Patterns of individuals trying to get products in bulk.

To establish that any call is legitimate, we would suggest at least the following information related to MOUs submitted for payment incurred in July of 2014 be provided:
* Pertinent registration information for the relay beneficiary/user of the TDN's making numerous compensable calls to department stores, pharmacies, or to banks in July 2014, particularly when there do not appear to be calls to anyone else.
* A general description of the hearing party to the call; e.g. commercial bank, private party, department store, medical professional.

Here, upon first reading, the snippet appears to bolster Purple's claim of being required to monitor users' calls. But upon closer, more careful reading - note the bolded text - it can be seen that the FCC is actually only requesting details for the callers suspected of making fraudulent calls. The FCC is NOT requiring details for ALL callers' records!

No comments: