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News Release
PUC Awards Relay Service To Sprint
May 28, 1999 (1999-021)
Contacts: Ron Eachus, Chairman, 503 378-6611; Roger Hamilton, Commissioner 503 378-6611; Joan H. Smith, Commissioner, 503 378-6611; Damara Paris, RSPF Manager, 503 373-1413 TTY; Ron Karten, Public Information Officer, 503 378-8962
Salem, Ore. – The Oregon Public Utility Commission has awarded a two-year contract to provide the state’s telecommunications relay service to Sprint Communications Company L.P. The relay service links deaf, hard-of-hearing, and speech-impaired individuals with regular telephone users.
Sprint, which was the only bidder for the service, has operated Oregon’s relay service since 1992. An average of 82,000 relay-service calls were placed each month between 1997-99.
"We have been very pleased with our working relationship with Sprint over the past seven years, and we look forward to continuing to work with this service," said Damara Paris, Manager of the Commission’s telephone assistance programs, known as the Residential Service Protection Fund (RSPF). RSPF provides many special telephone services for people who are on public assistance or have disabilities.
The state Legislature mandated the relay service in 1989, and in 1990, it became a federal requirement of the Americans With Disabilities Act. The relay service creates a link between an individual using a text telephone device (TTY) which looks like a typewriter or small computer, and a non-TTY user. Operators act as go-betweens, reading typed words from TTY users to the recipients, and in the other direction, they type spoken words for relay. In this way, physicians, for example, communicate with hearing- and speech-impaired patients.
"Not only does it enhance the TTY users ability to communicate, but it is a service that is also there to link the non-TTY users to their hearing- or speech-impaired family and friends," Paris said.
The Oregon Telecommunications Relay Service (OTRS) is one of three special assistance programs begun by the Commission in the late 1980s to help Oregonians in need of assistance with their telephone service. The 1987 Oregon Legislature made adequate and affordable residential telephone service to all Oregonians part of Oregon public policy. Based on that, the Commission implemented the Telecommunications Devices Access Program (TDAP), the Oregon Telephone Assistance Program (OTAP) and the relay service.
The Telecommunications Devices Access Program loans special telecommunication devices to Oregonians who are hearing-, speech-, and mobility-impaired. The Telephone Assistance Program provides a telephone bill reduction of $10.50 a month for low-income Oregonians.
These programs, collectively referred to as the Residential Service Protection Fund, are funded by a 10 cent surcharge applied to the monthly bill of every retail subscriber with access to the OTRS.
Sprint’s new contract will take effect on July 1, 1999.
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