Friday, November 7, 2014

The End of Text IP-Relay Services? Say It Ain't So.

Say it ain't so. Purple announced earlier that they will cease their well-used IP-Relay services on November 14.

Initial reports

A first report from a Purple vlog

Purple said that the FCC ordered Purple to monitor all calls for quality. From that video above, Purple stated: "To be reimbursed for IP Relay services, the FCC has informed Purple that we must monitor call content and details."  Then someone else emailed the FCC and they said that even with their efforts, they never told anyone, much less Purple, to disclose the content of what is said during any relay call.

Here is the email response the FCC sent:

Thank you for contacting the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regarding IP Relay service. On October 15, 2014, Purple Communications, Inc. notified the FCC that it will cease providing IP Relay service as of 5 p.m. EST on November 14, 2014. At present, Sprint remains a provider of IP Relay service.

The FCC is aware that IP Relay service is essential to many consumers who use relay services to communicate over the phone and that it is the only method of placing and receiving telephone calls for some of these consumers. Unfortunately, IP Relay service has been subject to significant fraud and abuse in recent years, totaling millions of dollars. The FCC’s efforts to protect these services for all consumers by eliminating this fraud and abuse has resulted in several providers terminating their provision of this service. Following the latest voluntary departure from the market by Purple, the FCC is working around the clock to ensure that consumers continue to have full access to IP Relay service in a manner that does not encourage IP Relay misuse by illegitimate users. In addition, we are actively exploring options to ensure that people who are deaf-blind continue to have accessible ways to use this service.

Finally, we wish to dispel any rumors that the FCC has ever required any TRS provider to disclose the content of what is said during any TRS call, including any IP Relay conversation. The FCC has strict rules guaranteeing both the confidentiality of all calls and the privacy of caller information, and we will continue to enforce those rules as they apply to IP Relay or any other form of TRS.

We thank you for bringing to our attention your concerns about IP Relay service. We will continue our work to find options to keep this service up and running in a manner that meets the communications needs of all individuals who need it.

Reimbursement cuts

We need to remember that not only the FCC has cut reimbursements, causing some services to close down, but there is also fraud, both from within the relay services agencies and outside. Sprint Relay is another relay services provider, but there have been indications that they too may discontinue their IP-Relay services.

It is possible that the real reason may be the rate cut that was imposed in July 2014: cut to $1.0309 a minute (see This is the lowest of the non-VRS relay service rates, so it is possible that Purple may have decided it wasn't profitable and they would drop the service (but blame it on the FCC's alleged requirement to monitor IP-Relay calls).

A challenge and a petition

Jamie Berke has challenged Purple via Twitter to show proof that the FCC is requiring them to monitor text relay calls.

As of now, there's a petition to get the FCC to increase reimbursements, based on the yet unproven FCC requirement to monitor IP-Relay calls.

Will we still have the Purple IP-Relay next week?

Update: Jamie believes she found the proof she challenged Purple to provide. Read the letter posted here:

Sprint responds

Someone received this email from Sprint:

Hello, Sprint is currently undergoing a process with the FCC to make a decision on whether we can remain in the Sprint IP Relay business at all. We hope a decision is made in the coming weeks; however, until that time , we are unable to process any new Sprint IP registrations or port any existing numbers. Persons who have begun the registration process will receive an email when any determination is made. Thank you for your patience.

Sprint Relay Customer Service
800-676-3777 (V/TTY) 877-877-3291 (Fax)

This means that if Sprint also gets out of the relay business, that's it. We have nothing. It doesn't need to be said that it will affect everyone in terms of job searches, medical, etc.

Trouble in TRS

On Facebook, Purple posted snippets from a letter from the TRS administrator to Purple:

It is hard to read the snippets without expanding to full screen so I typed them up for you to read easily:

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. 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;

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;

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;

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.

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.

Forgery and fraud

And here's proof that the registration requirements can be gotten around through fraud, forgery, and proxies.

Other related blog posts:

Major Update


Frustrated IP Relay User said...

Purple said to port my 10 digit number to Sprint. FCC suggested same. BUT Customer Service at SPRINT IP RELAY told me yesterday: "... at this time, Sprint is undergoing a process with the FCC to make a decision on whether we can remain in the Sprint IP Relay business at all. We hope a decision is made in the coming weeks; however, until that time a decision is made, we are unable to process any new Sprint IP registrations. Even though you may have begun the process to register for Sprint IP, there are several steps involved before either porting an existing number or obtaining a new Sprint IP number. Until a decision is made on whether Sprint will remain in the IP Relay business, no further action can be taken to enroll new users."

I checked on the ten IP relay company's listed on FCC's list (
Sprint- is not accepting customers
Purple- is closing ip relay
Sorenson- is no longer providing IP relay
Snap- is no longer in operation
Miracom- appears to be still in the process of receiving FCC approval for IP relay; has no web presence under this business name for customers to find them; has an FCC filing that appears to be active/unresolved, based on what is accessible via internet searching. No response to my inquiry email.
Hamilton Relay- only provides captioned telephone calls and traditional 711 relay calls requiring a TTY.
ZVRS- provides only VRS (video relay service), not text
Convo Commuications- provides only VRS services, not text- Customer Service told me Purple and Sprint are "the only providers offering ip-relay"
Communication Axcess Ability Group (CAAG) - provides only remote interpreting services and services not related to telecommunications at all.
Global VRS- provides only video relay services (VRS)

So... 0/10 are available to provide IP relay services after Nov. 14?

Does filing a COMPLAINT with FCC do anything in situation like this?

Anonymous said...

Sprint is staying in the IP relay business, and is now accepting new customers.

Another frustrated IP Relay User said...

Sprint IP is denying services to consumers who live in group homes. Sprint IP requires government ID plus "utility bill with the same name and address on it as the ID". This means persons living in situations where their OWN name does not happen to be on the bills are being denied their right to equal access!!

Sprint IP has not been willing to accept other types of proof of residency as part of verification (i.e. medical bill w/name and address, credit card or bank statement with name and address, notarized letter, etc.)

Sprint IP is also unwilling to allow consumers to communicate via email directly with anyone other than a low-level customer representative at a generic email address. They will not give out name or email of a "supervisor" who can answer questions with more than a "we will have to get back to you on that." Instead, they tell you to CALL. Duh. Without IP relay, I cannot call! Isn't that my point?