Good morning Mr. Chairman, and Commissioners. It is my pleasure to represent the staff of the Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau in reviewing our accomplishments in 2005 and setting out our goals for 2006. Our Bureau is primarily responsible for developing and implementing the Commission’s consumer policies, including disabilities access. Through our outreach and education we serve as the public face of the Commission for the American consumer. And, we partner with State, Local, and Tribal Governments in critical areas such as emergency preparedness and consumer protection.
I can report today that the Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau met all of our goals for 2005. In the area of Disability Access we released a number of items that expanded the scope of Telecommunications Relay Service and access to closed captioning. We took numerous actions on the consumer protection front, addressing issues such as Telemarketing, Junk Faxes, and Billing. We continued to improve the operations of our consumer center and undertook major updates to our web pages, and publications to provide consumers with access to current information about the issues facing them in the marketplace. Our outreach efforts had both an issue specific focus, in areas such as DTV transition and broadband, as well as a constituent-specific emphasis, in working with groups to help address their unique needs.
Telecommunications Relay Service was a major part of our Accessibility policy work in 2005 as we celebrated the 15 th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. TRS is vital for providing access to communications for people with hearing and speech disabilities. We released five major items expanding access for TRS users, including; 1) Allowing compensation for Video Relay Service calls between persons who use American Sign Language and persons who speak Spanish; 2) Recognizing a form of captioned telephone service that uses two telephone lines instead of one, allowing our rules to keep up with technological advances; 3) Mandating that VRS be offered 24/7 and adopting speed of answer requirements; 4) Exploring how internet-based TRS calls can be routed to the appropriate PSAP with location information; and, 5) Allowing a federal certification procedure for VRS and IP Relay. In connection with the 25 th anniversary of Closed Captioning, we initiated a proceeding exploring the effectiveness of the existing closed captioning rules. We received over 1000 comments to date. Our work on the Interagency Coordinating Council on Emergency Preparedness and Persons with Disabilities, proved especially important in the aftermath of the hurricanes.
Our Consumer Policy Division had a very busy year with a range of proceedings dealing with consumer protection. We undertook a proceeding to implement the Junk Fax Prevention Act of 2005. Our implementation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act saw the release of four items in 2005. We issued a major item in the Truth-in-Billing docket extending to wireless phone bills the requirement that bills be clear and non-misleading. We set forth rules on how carriers share information about customers wanting to switch from one carrier to another. We responded to over a thousand congressional inquiries and FOIA requests.
In 2005 our Consumer Center fielded over three quarter of a million phone calls, twice that many emails, as well as faxes, mail and web contacts. Our Consumer Advocacy and Mediation Specialists are on the front lines responding to consumers every day, answering questions about almost any issue the Commission may deal with, they take complaints, and they serve as the eyes and ears of the Commission in spotting and identifying new concerns that consumers may have.
One of the most important roles our staff has, is in resolving disputes between consumers and carriers. Through their hard work, over 4 million dollars were returned to consumers by carriers in 2005.
We have made great efforts in the past year to make sure that consumers can get access to the information they need from us and more easily provide us with information we need when they file a complaint. In 2005 we coordinated with the other bureaus and offices to review and update the over one-hundred fact sheets and other publications we maintain in order to ensure that they are up-to-date and useful to consumers. We are doing the same with the 250-plus scripts used by the Consumer Center staff in response to inquiries. We worked with the enforcement bureau to make the complaint forms more user friendly.
The tragic aftermath of last year’s Hurricanes posed unique issues for consumers in the gulf coast. With homes and infrastructure destroyed, displaced citizens relied more than ever on communications services. We worked with other bureaus, to address such matters as what would happen to wireless customers who worried about being cut off because they didn’t receive their phone bills, or the hearing disabled evacuees needing access to emergency information far from home. The Consumer Center staff worked 7 days a week to ensure that concerned consumers were able to get critical information.
Our outreach team consists of the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, and the Consumer Affairs and Outreach Division. We meet with groups and attend events from Alaska to Florida to make sure we inform as well as hear from American consumers on communications issues that impact their every-day lives.
One of our most important functions, is our relationship with other governments. We work closely with State, Local, and Tribal governments in order to foster a mutually beneficial exchange of information on issues of common interest, and to foster cooperation and coordination in areas of overlapping jurisdiction. Through our Indian Telecommunications Initiative we continue to place an emphasis on addressing the unique needs of those living on tribal lands.
We have also worked over the past year to use technology to achieve better communication with consumers. We have created web portals for topics of special interest and have made our reference resources easier to search and more responsive.
We redesigned the CGB home page to provide a welcoming one-stop-shop for consumers looking for answers. Our sites received a record number of hits in 2005 and we expect that trend to continue this year.
We look forward to a productive year working to further our 2006 goals. I want to thank the excellent staff of CGB for their hard work in 2005 and in the future.
PowerPoint, 3.59 MB
January 20, 2006 Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau
<ul><li>Furthering Access to Telecommunications for Americans with Disabilities </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Telecommunications Relay Service, Closed Captioning </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Implementing Consumer Policy </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Telephone Consumer Protection Act, Junk Fax Prevention Act, CAN-SPAM Act, Truth-in-Billing, Continued Slamming Adjudications, Early Termination Fees </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Rapid Response to Consumer Needs </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Consumer Center, Web Portals, Publications </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Targeted Outreach </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Broadband, DTV, Disability Issues, Tribal, Rural </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Working with our State, Tribal, and Local, Governmental Partners </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Leveraging Technology </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Web Portals, Electronic Comment Filing System, Reference Information Center, Consumer Information Registry </li></ul></ul>2005 Goals CGB
<ul><li>Strengthening Telecommunications Relay Service </li></ul><ul><ul><li>American Sign Language to Spanish Video Relay Service (VRS) is now compensable from the Interstate TRS Fund (Order on Reconsideration, 7/19/2005) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Two-lined captioned telephone service is now compensable from the Interstate TRS Fund (Order, 7/19/2005) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>VRS now has Speed of Answer Requirements and VRS must now be offered 24/7 (Report and Order, 7/19/2005) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Exploring Solutions for 911 Access to VRS and Internet Protocol Relay (NPRM, 11/30/2005) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>VRS Provider Certification Order will enable a wider range of eligible entities to meet the increasing demand for VRS service (Report and Order, 12/12/2005) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Focus on Closed Captioning </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Evaluating effectiveness of closed captioning rules (NPRM, 7/21/2005) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Implementing 1/1/06 closed captioning rules deadline </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Interagency Coordinating Council </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Chairs the Emergency Communications Subcommittee of the Interagency Coordinating Council on Emergency Preparedness and Persons with Disabilities </li></ul></ul>Accessibility Highlights Disability Rights Office
Consumer Policy Highlights <ul><li>Junk Fax Prevention Act </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Proposed rules to implement Congressionally mandated protections against unsolicited facsimile marketing (NPRM, 12/9/2005) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Telephone Consumer Protection Act </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Adopted several orders to protect consumers from unwanted telemarketing (Declaratory Ruling, 8/17/2005, Order, 6/27/2005, 2 nd Order on Reconsideration, 2/18/2005) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Early Termination Fees </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Evaluating issues concerning early termination fees imposed by Commercial Mobile Radio Service Providers </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Truth-in-Billing </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Expanded the federal consumer protection rules applied to consumers’ wireless phone bills (Second Report and Order, Declaratory Ruling, and Second NPRM, 3/18/2005) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Customer Accounts Record Exchange </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Facilitated exchange of records between carriers to increase accuracy in billing, reducing slamming (complaints down 51%) (MO&O, 2/25/2005) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Responded to 1238 Congressional Inquiries and 119 FOIAs </li></ul>Policy Team
Responsive to Consumers Total CGB Consumer Contacts: 2,442,343 2005 Complaints and Inquiries Consumer Center
Responsive to Consumers Amount Returned to Consumers $4,110,081: Total amount CGB returned to consumers in 2005 $3,948,334 returned to consumers through Informal complaint process $161,747 returned to consumers as a result of Slamming complaints Consumer Center
<ul><li>Created Specific Complaint Form for Obscene, Profane, and/or Indecent Material (Form 475B) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Facilitates efficient processing of indecency-related complaints </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Improved General Communications Related Issues Form (Form 475) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Facilitates more efficient processing of TCPA-related complaints </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Created Spanish language version </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Improved Slamming Complaint Form (Form 501) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Modified to facilitate FCC mediation with carriers on behalf of consumers </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Scripts Project </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Updated scripts used by consumer and mediation specialists to educate consumers and respond to inquiries and complaints </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Consumer Publications Project </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Newly created and/or updated 124 fact sheets/consumer advisories and other publications on topics such as broadband, VOIP-911, DTV Transition, and VRS </li></ul></ul>CGB
<ul><li>Immediately created web pages providing emergency information (77,451 hits) </li></ul><ul><li>Developed consumer advisories on programs providing relief to hurricane victims </li></ul><ul><li>Consumer Center staffed over weekends to answer inquiries and field complaints in wake of hurricanes (394 calls, 1525 emails) </li></ul><ul><li>Released a Public Notice reminding video programming distributors to make emergency information regarding Hurricane Katrina evacuation and relief efforts accessible to persons with hearing or vision disabilities </li></ul><ul><li>Issued an emergency waiver of rules allowing customers of carriers with damaged facilities to be quickly transferred to other carriers with minimal further disruption </li></ul><ul><li>Released public notices, jointly with WTB, stating that the Commission expected the wireless industry to ensure that no customers be cut-off for non-payment or other reasons arising from the hurricanes </li></ul><ul><li>Hosted special session of the Intergovernmental Advisory Committee , to discuss Emergency Preparedness in the wake of hurricanes (October 2005) </li></ul>Hurricane Response CGB
Outreach Highlights <ul><li>Met with groups in Kotzebue, Cordova, & Anchorage, Alaska to discuss broadband deployment in rural areas (August 2005) </li></ul><ul><li>Delivered keynote address for Telecommunications for the Deaf biennial conference, New Orleans, LA (July 2005) </li></ul><ul><li>Participated in White House Initiative on Asian American/Pacific Islanders town hall meetings in Los Angeles, CA (April 2005), Houston, TX (May 2005) and Raleigh, NC (June 2005) </li></ul><ul><li>Participated in La Raza conference in Philadelphia, PA (July 2005) and NAACP convention in Milwaukee, WI (July 2005) </li></ul><ul><li>Received the National Association of Consumer Agency Administrators’ Achievement in Consumer Education Award for DTV transition education (June 2005) </li></ul><ul><li>Presented a workshop on Telecommunications Relay Services at the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf Conference in San Antonio, TX (July 2005) </li></ul><ul><li>Participated in Arizona Roundtable on Rural Broadband in Mesa, AZ (October 2005) </li></ul>Outreach Team
Outreach Highlights <ul><li>Fostered and maintained relationships with state, local and tribal governments in order to promote a better understanding of FCC programs, policies, rules and decisions </li></ul><ul><li>Led joint FCC/NARUC/NASUCA Working Group on Lifeline and Link Up (announced in Austin, TX, July 2005) </li></ul><ul><li>Hosted a delegation from the National Conference of State Legislatures (April 2005) </li></ul><ul><li>Sponsored an Indian Telecommunications Initiative Regional Workshop and Roundtable with the National Congress of American Indians in Albuquerque, New Mexico (July 2005) </li></ul><ul><li>Facilitated roundtable on Best Practices and tower siting review with the United South and Eastern Tribes (February 2005) </li></ul><ul><li>Organized productive meetings of the Consumer Advisory Committee bringing together consumer groups and industry to advise Commission regarding consumer issues </li></ul>Outreach Team
Leveraging Technology <ul><li>Implemented improvements to the Electronic Comment Filing System allowing more tailored search results </li></ul><ul><li>Improved Reference Information Center processing time from 45 days to 2 days </li></ul><ul><li>Developed a new broadband web page serving as a user-friendly clearinghouse for consumer information about broadband: www.fcc.gov/cgb/broadband.html </li></ul><ul><li>Created Consumer Information Registry allowing the Commission to send out targeted consumer information </li></ul><ul><li>Developed the VoIP911 website to inform consumers about the limitations and availability of emergency service over VoIP: www.voip911.gov </li></ul><ul><li>Created Closed Captioning Web Page to simplify access to Commission decisions and pending petitions </li></ul>CGB
Leveraging Technology CGB Home Page Redesigned <ul><li>Approximately 16 million hits to the CGB home page </li></ul><ul><li>Nearly 1.5 million hits on the FCC Kidszone site </li></ul><ul><li>17,000 hits to Bienvenidos, our Spanish language pages </li></ul>
2006 Goals CGB <ul><li>Enabling Consumers to Make Informed Choices </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Outreach Events </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Web Portals </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Publications </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Fact Sheets </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Advisories </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Consumer Center </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Partnering with State, Local, and Tribal Governments </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Rural and Underserved Constituents </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Emergency Preparedness </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Continue Policy Focus </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Consumer Protection </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Disabilities Access </li></ul></ul>