DHHCAN Special Meeting Minutes
Thursday, March 10, 2016
Meeting called to order at 3:05 PM.
- Claude Stout, TDI
- Don Cullen, TDI
- Tom Dowling, DSA
- Howard Rosenblum, NAD
- Zainab Alkebsi, NAD
- Edgar “Bernie” Palmer, ALDA
- Art Roehrig, AADB
- Mary Lynn Lally, GUAA
- Alfred “Sonny” Sonnenstrahl, ADARA
- Lise Hamlin, HLAA
- Julie Schafer, RID
- Ron Sutcliffe, CSD
- David Bahar, CSD
- Barbara Raimondo, CEASD
- Jayne Tubergen Magneson
- Jan Nishimura
- Pat Richey
Background for Special Meeting Session
- Claude thanked everyone for coming to the special DHHCAN meeting. He explained that we meet today at the request of NAD. NAD requested that DHHCAN convene an emergency session to discuss the situation regarding the ACE platform, and the VTCSecure request for a petition by us consumer organizations.
- Howard thanked everyone for coming to this critical meeting. About two weeks prior, Howard, Zainab, Don, and Sonny met with VTCSecure (Peter Hayes, Becky Copeland, and their counsel) about the ACE app.
- Two features were shown to us at this meeting. First, there was a demo of the Watson independent open source program to convert speech to text. It was accurate but mainly because of speaking directly into the microphone. They are developing this to allow the ability to see transcription in VRS to verify the accuracy of the interpreter’s voicing.
- The second concept is a new way of connecting VRS to 911. Now if you call 911 through VRS on your mobile, location is a problem. The address in your VRS system only works for your home. For mobile, you need GPS. 911 call centers have GPS systems so VTCSecure’s idea is the mobile call would be placed directly both to the 911 call center and the VRS provider at the same time as a three-way call. Even if the 911 call center does not have Next-Generation 911 technology yet, they will still get your GPS location while you are waiting to connect to the VRS operator. Your location will be directly transmitted to 911 without having to relay it through the interpreter.
- VTCSecure’s vision is that VTCSecure would provide the connectivity and through their platform, you can choose any of the five providers. You can change the provider at any time you call but VTCSecure would be the “carrier.” They approached FCC with this idea called “ACEConnect,” which is not part of the ACE contract. The FCC’s concern was how the community would perceive this idea. Since the idea is for ACEConnect to be the network provider, as Howard commented, it looks and smells like NCP, which was a hot-button issue at the NAD Conference about two years ago.
- The FCC had proposed two platforms, the reference platform and the NCP. The community was in favor of the reference platform idea because it supports innovation shared among providers. That is an open-source app that will provide interoperability for VRS services or connect users directly to government ASL support lines. As it will not be proprietary to any one provider, all VRS providers can plug into this ACE app (opt-in) and it allows developers to develop and share innovative ideas. However, the community opposed the NCP because all VRS calls would be accessed through one portal, including registration, connectivity, et cetera. That’s what ACEConnect looks like.
- About a month ago, NAD and TDI received an email asking them to express their support of this idea to the FCC with only one day’s turnaround. There should be a process. Forcing us to decide on such short notice is not fair to NAD or TDI. We need to discuss this over time to carefully weigh the pros and cons. We should not jump on anything without a careful discussion so both NAD and TDI declined to act fast on something that could be controversial.
- VTCSecure then scheduled a meeting to demonstrate the aforementioned features to us.
- They also approached the VRS providers who told them they were not interested. Only Purple indicated they would participate.
- Sorenson informed VTCSecure that they cannot move forward with this idea as Sorenson owns the patent on VRS. So if VTCSecure wants to use it, they have to license it from Sorenson.
- So we need to strategize on the following issues and discuss our approach together instead of NAD or TDI deciding alone.
- Should we take a position on the patent issue? Is this appropriate, particularly in light of the Ultratec captioned telephone lawsuit that is still pending? (Issue 1)
- Do we want the features as part of ACEConnect or should it be separated out? (Issue 2)
- At the meeting with VTCSecure, Howard suggested separating the features out and giving it to the VRS providers. VTCSecure had not thought of that. However, the VRS providers do not have R&D money to implement it.
- Does the current thinking at the FCC fit in with what the Consumer Groups have asked all along? Consumer Groups have asked to experience competition and choices in VRS, as per the April 12, 2011 Consumer Groups TRS Policy Statement. (Issue 3)
- We have indicated again and again that there be no direction/steps made toward managing a socialized or nationalized TRS program. There is language in Title 4 of the ADA giving responsibility to the FCC to run a TRS national program, giving us dual relay calling experience everyday from the market, not strictly from a tightly government-run TRS program. (Issue 4)
- One member commented that VRS should be open to all and Sorenson should not hold all providers hostage.
- We have not taken a position on the competing patents before. It will be on the providers to pay for the licenses so it’s between Sorenson, VTCSecure, and the other providers.
- We want the new features, like Watson and 911 location technology, and VRS providers need enough resources for innovation. While we welcome VTCSecure to innovate as per contract with the FCC, this should not be the only avenue in which we experience innovation for TRS. The five VRS providers must have some incentive to participate in research and development. The more we have engaging in this area, the better for us all. For example, we would not want VTCSecure to be the only source of experimenting using skills based routing. We want all five VRS providers to have their respective trials in skills based routing, that way we get to see what works well, or is not for us. If we rely only on what VTCSecure offers in this area, we will not know what else we are missing here.
- VTCSecure’s method sounds like MCLS from the EAAC report. The latter recommended the same splitting method for both wireline and mobile. Those recommendations have not been implemented yet because VRS is not fully interoperable yet. The EAAC report also recommended at least three nationwide VRS call centers to handle 911 calls., which has yet to happen. If the ACE app continues and has the intended effect, the rest will come.
- MCLS did come up in the meeting with VTCSecure but they were neutral on that.
- One concern expressed was that we do not know how close the proposed 911 split idea is to MCLS. If it’s part of ACEConnect, it might make it harder to get to the envisioned MCLS.
- In 911 matters, we’re not well positioned to say how well it works, so we should defer to Richard Ray. We should ask Richard Ray to look at it and give us his recommendation whether this is a good solution or not. If he says it is not, then we stay away from ACEConnect. If he says yes, then we can consider it.
Issues 3 and 4:
- The FCC came up with ACE to save money in light of fraud history but we should not give up too much or go towards a nationalized VRS. We want choices and competition. The FCC could give money to the providers for innovation instead of to ACE. We need free enterprise for VRS.
- Claude said that we have indicated to VTCSecure that the Consumer Groups are ready to meet with the CGB staff at the FCC to discuss its plans with VTCSecure on ACE and ACEConnect. We have a direct relationship with the FCC, not VTCSecure. VTCSecure has a contractual relationship with the FCC, thus it does its work as per the FCC contractual requirements. The FCC seems to have plans to meet with us in a few weeks to discuss ACE. That would be good because we should be part of the process. We feel there is a disconnect between the FCC and consumers. They need to better communicate with us and include us. We need to constantly educate.
- We need to formulate our position by the time of this upcoming meeting (whenever that may be) so we will ask Richard Ray to discuss it at the next Emergency Communications subcommittee meeting.
- Another member suggested asking someone from the FCC to come present at our April 6 meeting. Claude responded that we should meet with the FCC before that but if members still want that, he can ask them.
- We decided not to get in the middle of the patent issue.
- Claude will follow up with Richard Ray about the EAAC recommendation a few years ago in regards to MCLS. He will pass on the word of the consensus from the meeting that he and others within the Emergency Communications Subcommittee, DAC ensure that the proposed plans with the ACEConnect do support the MCLS recommendation from the Emergency Access Advisory Committee (EAAC), FCC (not the same body as the Emergency Communication Subcommittee, DAC).
- When the CGB at the FCC is ready to meet with us, Claude indicated, as done in recent past, that a few of us (TDI, NAD, and HLAA) will represent DHHCAN and others in the meeting. We will not decide anything formal via DHHCAN until after the meeting with the CGB staff at the FCC.
The Chair adjourned the meeting at 4:40 PM.
Zainab Alkebsi, Secretary