Say it ain't so. Purple announced earlier that they will cease their well-used IP-Relay services on November 14.
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.
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 http://www.fcc.gov/encyclopedia/2014-trs-history-docket). 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:
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.
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