FCC’s Informational Meeting

31 07 2009


FCC requested I post this:

I copied and pasted into this. Also, I’m trying out a new way of posting to edsalert.

If this gets messed up, grin and bear it please.

eyes open & thumbs up,

Note: the warrants specified in this, you can scroll back to find the warrants within edsalert posts.


The Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC’s) Office of the Inspector General will be hosting an informational meeting to discuss the VRS issues and practices described in the FBI Arrest Warrants (attached).  The meetings will take place during RID in Philadelphia on Sunday, 8/2 from 6:30pm-7:30pm and on Monday, 8/3 from 1:00pm – 2:00pm in Conference Room 303 at the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown (interpreters will be provided).  These staff will also be available by appointment in Philadelphia on Sunday, 8/2 from 3:00pm to 6:00pm and Monday, 8/3 from 8:00am to 12:00pm to speak confidentially to individuals wishing to discuss or report potentially fraudulent VRS activity (interpreters available upon request). 

If you would like to make an appointment for 8/2 or 8/3 (or at any time afterward) to speak confidentially in-person or on the phone to FCC Inspector General staff regarding any first-hand, personal knowledge you have about the specific issues mentioned in the warrants, or about any other types of activities on the part of a VRS provider that you feel may be fraudulent please contact Jay Keithley at 202-391-6369 (cell) or Jay.Keithley@fcc.gov

Please forward this information to anyone you think might be interested.


Traci Randolph, CI/CT, SC:L
Federal Communications Commission
Disability Rights Office



22 responses to “FCC’s Informational Meeting”

31 07 2009
Jeff Rosen (13:41:42) :

Hi Ed –

I’m curious about your opinion of the FCC’s “invitation” to have confidential meetings with interpreters?

While I want to help stop VRS fraud, I feel concerned about the impact on consumers’ trust that their interpreted conversations and identities will be kept confidential.

I am not sure about using VIs as the principal investigative tool. Whats wrong with interviewing VRS employees first?

Thanks for your views on this.


31 07 2009
edsalert (13:56:47) :


Your concerns are valid.

Let’s hope that the confidential meetings with interpreters meant interpreters whistle blowing the criminal portion of the relay service, and not of the actual legit relay conversations. I would be surprised if VRS employees were not already interviewed?

Interpreters, by the very nature of their ethics, are caught in a catch-22 situation. Based on the comments we’ve seen in previous comments, VIs were told by the VRS staff that this and that are permitted because of the “confidentiality” of the relay call and all that.

Even with sticky issues of this “confidential” meetings, I think it is a good call on the FCC’s part. FCC needs to get a much more clearer, and much more comprehensive picture of the VRS world and best way is to do that, I think.

eyes open and thumbs up

31 07 2009
vrs interpreter (16:00:25) :

The FBI is not asking interpreters to breach any kind of confidentiality…. From what I understand they are asking to be enlightened as to how the VRS companies have engaged in minute pumping techniques. VIs are able to give details of the types of calls that were being processed which would not necessarily include any names or content of the calls.

Confidentiality has been defined by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) as “ensuring that information is accessible only to those authorized to have access” and is one of the cornerstones of information security.

RID Ethics says that state and federal law supercede the code of ethics and that interpreters are to obey the rules of law first, then the Codes of Professional Conduct. The laws are clear when it comes to reporting child abuse – interpreters are allowed to report details even if they were learned on a job. The same holds true for reporting fraudulent practices to the FBI -it is not breaking the confidentiality tenet because they are authorized to have access to this information according to the law.

If the VRS companies were not engaging in these kinds of unethical practices there would be no need for the FBI to attend the RID conference and try to gather more of this kind of information……

Also, I am sure that VIs are not the FBIs principal investigative tool….. Many deaf have come forward admitting they were being paid to make calls too… and they are collecting documents from every VRS company that shows VRS efforts in trying to grow their minutes with programs that may be questionable. The bottom line is now it has to change and we should all be happy about that!

31 07 2009
tt (16:58:48) :

I agree change must happen, however, vi’s are not allowed to report child abuse or violence. that is state law. and I really am not happy that they are coming to RID….they have the names of the vi’s from the warrants, do they really have to be there, i am dismayed.

31 07 2009
deaf anonymous (18:32:21) :

Will the FCC supply their own staff interpreters for confidential discussions? Are the FCC interpreters moonlighting in any capacity for relay outfits? The FCC should seriously consider allowing the deaf to communicate by instant messaging if they find the presence of interpreters to be very uncomfortable. This announcement needs more details. Will there be immunity granted for those who come forward?

31 07 2009
deaf anonymous (18:45:02) :

Stopping VRS fraud is not enough. Stopping relay fraud may not be enough. Abuse of other provisions of relay notably Internet Protocol (IP) was cracked down but was profiting revenue from abusive calls forfeited? Oftentimes hardcore criminals often benefit from small bits. The FCC have been focusing too much on video relay service. They need to do a hard crackdown on the relay industry as a whole. The sympathy of deaf people needs to stop. I know this may shatter the Deaf economy but too bad.

What needs to be looked at again is possible alternative methods used by HOVRS (Purple) after they were slapped by FCC for brown bag. Transparency? CSDVRS must itemizie how much they contributed to each organization in their clear (white/private-label) VRS program (CADVRS, SEAADVRS, etc.) and how much they profited (after all expenses) from calls made by all calling thru the clear program.

31 07 2009
deaf anonymous (19:03:37) :


“We were not aware of any provision of the law or the FCC’s rules that states anything relating to the Brown Bag Program, or similar rewards programs,” said Obray.”


31 07 2009
Anon (19:41:00) :

What’s more, the internal minutes-pumping techniques need to stop. There is absolutely no reason for every deaf employee to have their own VRS interpreter in a conference call. If all of the employees are deaf, then the logic of functional equivalency would assert that the most efficient manner would be multi-way video-conferencing chats. Each employee with its own VRS agent is absolutely ridiculous. This is how Purple, SNAP, and some of the others keep themselves afloat.

Furthermore, as there is an employer-employee relationship, the VRS providers have an obligation to ensure effective communication for all of its employees. It’s quite convenient for these providers to pass the buck (or profit from) onto the public, isn’t it? Rather than paying for it themselves as obligated under the ADA.

A meeting that could go for 30 minutes with direct video will go for more than 2-3 hours, with a lot of lags and the like. But they don’t care because they profit from that in the long run.

This is why they’re able to support so many employees (aka the ‘Deaf community’)….Viable says they’re proud of hiring over 200 employees. But what exactly do they do? They just sit there and make phone calls. Using Viable VRS of course… and why do you tell me that there’s nothing wrong with that?

Viable takes pride on the fact they give so much back to the community (ahem, MDAD and RID would beg to differ, but I digress…)… what will the NAD do with all of the tainted $ they received from the VRS providers?

31 07 2009
deaf anonymous (20:00:00) :

The NAD shouldn’t have accepted any relay advertisements. I feel that accepting 3-4 while denying the others is a bad message of favoritism. The true way to revenue is MEMBERSHIP DRIVES and very hardline crackdowns on illegitimacy occurring within the organization and its state-level affiliates.

1 08 2009
FBI Warrants against two VRS companies and other companies - Page 2 - AllDeaf.com (05:29:42) :

[…] meeting to discuss the VRS issues and practices described in the FBI Arrest Warrants. Ed’s Telecom Alert FCC’s Informational Meeting […]

1 08 2009
David B. (07:27:09) :

After reading above comments, this is exactly why Convo Relay was implemented as we can hope that other VRS companies will learn from Convo is to be an “organic” and “kosher” industry.

1 08 2009
edsalert (07:39:53) :


You bring up an issue that I hope to do in the near future; reporting of abuse or violence. Remember, on a TTY – text can be ” made up” so thus not reportable; however, what if VI actually sees a deaf person hitting a child, is that now “reportable”?

I hope to do a post on this soon, so folks – hold back ur comments on this for now.

eyes open & thumbs up…

1 08 2009
Cousin Vinny (09:58:02) :

The FBI is not asking interpreters to breach any kind of confidentiality…. From what I understand they are asking to be enlightened as to how the VRS companies have engaged in minute pumping techniques. VIs are able to give details of the types of calls that were being processed which would not necessarily include any names or content of the calls.

Well, the FBI are finding out about the content of the calls; otherwise, how can they determine whether they are ‘run calls’? And what if the FBI wants to bring conspiracy charges? They would want to know the identity of the callers making the run calls, or at least, a physical description thereof. Where’s the line?

Concerns about the confidentiality of the calls made to VRS providers are legitimate, and the FBI needs to carefully tread this line. They need to make limited and precise inquiries in order to resolve fraud and misuse now occurring in the industry. Otherwise, consumer confidence in the VRS industry could take a serious step back.

The same holds true for reporting fraudulent practices to the FBI -it is not breaking the confidentiality tenet because they are authorized to have access to this information according to the law.

Maybe the RID could issue VRS-specific guidelines in their Code of Ethics; maybe a whole new section on issues related to the VRS industry? Does anyone know?

Don’t get me wrong; I want to see VRS misuse and fraud stopped. It has to stop, actually, to ensure the long-term survival of the industry. Here’s to a successful resolution to these issues with a minimal impact to the end consumer.

1 08 2009
deaf anonymous (12:41:09) :

Keeping organic and kosher minutes may not be enough. A video relay service may process calls that are legit yet they delay for 10 seconds before hanging up. Multiply 10 seconds by 60,000 instances throughout the course of a year. Regardless the size of the relay outfit this is quite lots of revenue.

2 08 2009
Sean Youm (18:52:03) :

Where is the FBI Arrest Warrant attached?

12 08 2009
Deborah Gunter (14:09:06) :

I attended the FCC meeting. They told interpreters they DO have a right to “report” abuse seen during a call, to the voice caller. Who is keeping notes?

12 08 2009
edsalert (14:26:08) :


Ultimately, it will be the Supreme Court that will decide that. For now, definition of “abuse” is still debatable. I understand at the RID Conf, OIG/FCC said use “common sense” of what is clearly abusing. What is sad about this is this: it is precisely what we pundits were afraid of. By abusing the system, now need to get interpreters involved; no longer are they considered “pure” dial tone. In other words, abuses dictate the path we’re to take to prevent these type of abuses.

eyes open & thumbs up…

15 08 2009
Terpgirl (22:37:25) :

Deaf Anonymous,

You don’t have to worry about that. The callers hang up, not the interpreter. Sure, the interpreter can hang up after one of the callers says goodbye, but generally speaking, one of the callers hangs up, and the minutes immediately stop running on the server. You can’t keep them running unless both callers are connected to each other. Otherwise, TTY relay and IP relay and captel and speech to speech could theoretically do the same thing. But the truth is that none of us can. That is how the system is designed to properly work.

These run calls are a very big problem, and I’m glad something is finally being done about them. However, legitimate calls are not feeding extra money into the companies. They end as soon as one of the callers hangs up, and that’s it.


17 08 2009
tt (09:48:41) :

I also attended the FCC meeting… abuse is only defined as fraud against the US government. They did not say we could report child abuse or violence we see on the screen or any other type of fraud. Those laws that say we must report are state laws. Federal law says we can not report what we see on the screen. The FCC refused comment on that or anything else that would be considered illegal. They said we can not hide behind being a dial tone. I do not wish to hide, but I wish they would make our role more clearly defined. I was taught if hearing can deaf can. If a hearing person can commit fraud so can a deaf person and that I had no right to make judgments. Obviously, I do not have to process a call that is not being interpreted. that is within my role, however, the conversation of manufactured minutes was questionable. How am I supposed to know if someone is being paid off to make a phone call. In their words’the smell test’ if it smells bad it probably is. well, i don’t like interpreting drug deals, so is that within my parameters. No it is not. That is illegal behavior. So the bottom line is that fraud is only fraud if it is against the government. isn’t that a double standard. hmmmmm what are all your thoughts on that.

19 08 2009
Daryl Crouse (18:11:29) :

Having the benefit of wearing various hats over the years ranging from founding Snap!VRS, the first certified provider, a career certified interpreter and consumer of VRS from the hearing user perspective. This is a slippery slope that really worries me. It is one thing to have a press release encouraging people to come forward with information on a specific scheme that is internal to the provider’s operations. It is a completely different scenario when you have a regulatory body setting up confidential meetings at a professional training conference to find out “about any other types of activities on the part of a VRS provider that you [the RID conference attendee] feel may be fraudulent.”

Will (Did) everyone understand what “fraudulent activities” actually means?

Will (Was) there be a certain sense of overpowering influence to do your “civic duty” causing an interpreter to report something which under normal circumstances they would not?

If a person is not a registered conference attendee can (was) that person still participate in the forums?

What does this say to the everyday VRS user hearing or deaf that the federal government is proactively seeking out information in a forum never intended for that purpose and holding private confidential meetings with interpreters about any activity the interpreter feels may be fraudulent? The announcement says “on the part of a VRS provider”; will that reminder be continually made? Will people lose that focus and feel they must report any perceived fraudulent activity?

Personally, I don’t believe there is any preconceived Orwellian plan the Inspector General’s staff intends to carry out. However, there are a lot of factors that come into play when it appears from the average observer there are multiple meetings being held in a private forum intended to be a training conference.

Applying the Code of Professional Conduct

“It is the obligation of every interpreter to exercise judgment, employ critical thinking, apply the benefits of practical experience, and reflect on past actions in the practice of their profession. The guiding principles in this document represent the concepts of confidentiality, linguistic and professional competence, impartiality, professional growth and development, ethical business practices, and the rights of participants in interpreted situations to informed choice. The driving force behind the guiding principles is the notion that the interpreter will do no harm.”

“Tenet: Interpreters adhere to standards of confidential communication.”

“Guiding Principle: Interpreters hold a position of trust in their role as linguistic and cultural facilitators of communication. Confidentiality is highly valued by consumers and is essential to protecting all involved. ”

“Each interpreting situation (e.g., elementary, secondary, and post-secondary education, legal, medical, mental health) has a standard of confidentiality. Under the reasonable interpreter standard, professional interpreters are expected to know the general requirements and applicability of various levels of confidentiality. Exceptions to confidentiality include, for example, federal and state laws requiring mandatory reporting of abuse or threats of suicide, or responding to subpoenas.”

Is there a law requiring mandatory reporting of suspected fraudulent activity? Is it more of a good thing to do or is it mandatory?

Have subpoenas been issued for every attendee at the conference?

This goes back to the fine line distinction between reporting suspected internal provider fraudulent activity and suspected fraudulent activity in general. There was no communication occurring during the reported calls identified in the warrants.

The meetings are described as seeking information on the issue of manufactured minutes or “run calls.” The extent and breadth of inquiry is the black cloud over the whole thing.

RID should never have allowed the FCC or for that matter any government agency to muscle their way into the conference. It is an event for RID business and training of interpreters. If the FCC wanted to educate interpreters on the reimbursement methodology, that would be a great way to educate. It appears from the onlooker this is nothing more than a fishing expedition on their part with the side benefit of intimidating interpreters.

I’m guessing there was some indication that they were/are going to indict a couple interpreters, but could not say who or why. That being said they may believe that interpreters will be more forthcoming about other situations in the future. Put enough specter of fear around it and people react. Remember, evidence of a crime is excluded from trial on a constitutional basis if the government acted improperly. If a private citizen reports that evidence will likely be admitted.

Suppose a Deaf financial planner uses VRS often to transfer money from various trading and client accounts. Given the right circumstances it could take on the appearance of money laundering. While it would be a perfect world to think with all the ethics training this would not be a problem. Are the glasses so rose colored we believe that in the day to day operations no one will fear they may be indicted for interpreting that call? Especially given the overpowering sentiment left on the conference attendees.

I believe everyone universally agrees that manufactured minutes and fraudulent schema such as the one that began this are wrong and should be dealt with. To the extent that interpreters are simply reporting illegal business practices of their employer the role seems to be acceptable. I defer to the Deaf community to give their yea or nay on that as true.

The divide is now

1) how to properly address it and
2) head off future fraudulent activity while
3) maintaining the telephone users right to privacy in conjunction with
4) interpreters commitment to a professional code of ethical conduct.

Addressing the problem at hand

There are a number of alternatives available to gather information they wanted. The providers know which interpreters were scheduled to work during what shifts. Subpoenas could be issued for those individuals. The interpreters could request corporate legal counsel during the interview. The interview would be documented. If later used at trial may become part of the public record. Everyone would know exactly what was asked, etc…

Instead, undocumented unrepresented forum and private interviews occurred. The public does not know what transpired, who was interviewed, how long they were interviewed, etc.

Zero transparency.

Heading off future fraudulent activity

A team of Deaf investigators could be assigned to act as watch dogs for the fund, including service levels, interoperability, etc. Over the years I’ve met several Deaf individuals interested in law enforcement. Becoming a police officer is not an option for most Deaf individuals because of physical hearing requirements. This opens the door to careers in law enforcement. Accomplishes the goal while creating job opportunities in a field historically closed to the Deaf community.

There are indications that Deaf people were hired to make these “run calls”. It is proven fact Deaf individuals are underemployed because of attitudinal barriers to employment. Instead of making these few out to be criminals, the system could have acted in a positive manner earlier on. The opportunity to rectify that is now.

Instead, several individuals are facing trial, if found guilty they will probably face long jail sentences and loss of other rights.

The cost to society and person overshadows the fiscal amount of the run calls.

20 08 2009
edsalert (09:54:07) :


As usual you provide a thought-provoking issues. I do not think deaf/hoh and interpreters will be handcuffed especially when they get verbal (in rare situation – written memos) clarification from lawyer or authority who sez this practice is okay and legal. I believe authorities understands this. I do not think FCC or FBI specifically asks for the content of conversation, but more of – as one of commentators sez – style of conversation. Use Ipod? Deaf/hoh watching interpreter or taking a nap while VI interprets? etc.

It is too bad really – that abuses has driven FCC/FBI/OIG to go to the area that is highly sensitive and controversial. If not for abuses, these questions you raised would not happen.

Unfortunately, I think someone will either be severely fined or be looking out of steel bars.

eyes open & thumbs up….

30 11 2009
The Wrong Side of The Law | Reflexivity (15:46:58) :

[…] you realized how wrong it is, well, its time for another roll of the dice. References/Resources: FCC’s Informational Meeting, Memo posted to Ed’s Telecom Alert (with comments) Federal Communications Commission, […]

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