AT&T Inc. has agreed to pay $18.25 million to settle an investigation by the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) Enforcement Bureau into whether the company improperly billed the Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS) fund for certain IP Relay (Internet-based TRS) calls.
Among the issues under investigation was whether AT&T billed the fund for IP Relay calls by persons whom the company registered for the service without first requiring them to provide such basic information as their names, and by persons whose registration information the company failed to adequately verify. These registration and verification requirements are designed to protect the program against waste, fraud and abuse.
In the consent decree, AT&T agreed to reimburse the TRS Fund $7 million, which includes interest. In addition, AT&T agreed to make a voluntary contribution of $11.25 million to the U.S. Treasury. AT&T must implement a robust compliance plan including new operating procedures, comprehensive training of its employees and contractors, and periodic reporting requirements.
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said, "For consumers with speech and hearing disabilities, Telecommunications Relay Service provides a vital connection to friends, family, employers and first responders. Today's settlement represents the fourth FCC enforcement action to date against Internet-based TRS providers, resulting in payments of nearly $40 million back to the Fund and the U.S. Treasury. The steps taken today will not only ensure the integrity of the program, but also send a strong signal to providers that we will not tolerate abuse of the system."
TRS enables an individual who is deaf, hard of hearing, deaf-blind, or who has a speech disability, to engage in telephone communications with one or more individuals.
With IP Relay, an Internet-based form of TRS, a person with a hearing or speech disability communicates with a provider's communications assistant (CA) via an Internet connection, and the CA relays the communications to the hearing party via the public switched telephone network (PSTN).