Deaf and Disabled Telecommunications Program

DDTP Joint Meeting

of the TADDAC and EPAC Committees

May 14, 2010

10:00 AM to 4:00 PM

Deaf and Disabled Telecommunications Program, Main Office

1333 Broadway, Suite 500, Oakland, CA 94612

 

The Telecommunications Access for the Deaf and Disabled Administrative Committee and the Equipment Program Advisory Committee held their annual Joint meeting at the Deaf and Disabled Telecommunications Program office in Oakland, California. TADDAC Chair, Kathleen Barrett called the meeting to order at 10:00 AM.

 

TADDAC Committee Members Present:

Kathleen Barrett, Disabled Community, Mobility Impaired Seat, Chair

Patrick Boudreault, Deaf Community

Gerald “Bummy” Burstein, Deaf Community at Large, Vice-Chair

Chriz Dally, Deaf Community

Nancy Hammons, Late-Deafened Community

Alik Lee, Division of Ratepayer Advocates

Tommy Leung, Disabled Community, Vision Impaired Seat

Colette Noble, Hard of Hearing Community

EPAC Committee Members Present:

Anindya “Bapin” Bhattacharyya, Disabled Community, Deaf-Blind Seat

Loretta Moore, Disabled Community, Blind Seat

Richard Ray, Deaf Community

Kenneth Rothschild, Deaf Community, Vice-Chair

Ann Ruth, Mobility Impaired Community, Chair

Julian “Buddy” Singleton, Senior Community

Brian Winic, Hard of Hearing Community

CCAF Staff Present:

Sharon Albert, Director of Operations

Mary Atkins, Marketing Department Manager

Priya Barmanray, CRS Program Analyst

Shelley Bergum, Chief Executive Officer

Silke Brendel-Evan, Special Projects Coordinator

Frank Cabasaan, Customer Contact Specialist

Denyse Cage, Outreach Event Coordinator

Dan Carbone, Customer Contact Liaison

Linda Chan, Marketing Specialist

Karen Evangelista, Committee Coordinator

Patsy Emerson, Committee Assistant

Marina Garcia, Outreach Administrative Assistant

Holly Gillette, CRS Administrative Assistant

Laurette Hamilton, Receptionist/Office Assistant

Lynne Harbeck, Field Operations Admin Coordinator

Charlotte Harper, Admin and HR Department Manager

John Hu, IT

John Kehn, Database Administrator, Contractor

John Koste, Telecommunications Equipment Specialist

Lorraine Liebling, Admin and HR Coordinator

Jennifer Minore, Field Operations Manager for Northern California

Jim Murphy, Controller

Jackie Pascual, Distribution Center Account Specialist

Mansha Thapa, Business Analyst

Anthony Thung, Systems Administrator

Sherrie Van Tyle, Product Training Specialist

Gail Walker, Staff Accountant

David Weiss, CRS Department Manager

Nathan Young, Marketing Collateral Specialist

Caylin Yula, Information and Accounting Specialist

 

CPUC Staff Present:

Tyrone Chin, CPUC, Communications Division

Christopher Chow, CPUC, News & Public Information Office

Linda Gustafson, CPUC, Communications Division

Jonathan Lakritz, CPUC, Communications Division

Penney Legakis, CPUC, Communications Division

Helen Mickiewicz, CPUC, Legal Division

Sue Wong, CPUC, Communications Division

Others Present:

Mark Allen, One World Communications, Inc.

Ken Arcia, Sprint

Meredith Berry, Jitterbug

Sook Hee Choi, Attendant to Bapin Bhattacharyya

John Fechter, Hamilton Relay

John Garrett, Attendant to Loretta Moore

Otis Hopkins, Attendant to Tommy Leung

Peggy Rowan, Attendant to Ann Ruth

Teresa Schnabel, One World Communications, Inc.

Amy Stonecipher, OneWorld Communications, Inc.

Kathleen Beiling

 

I.            Welcome and Introduction of Committee Members and Guests

 

The TADDAC and EPAC Committee members introduced themselves, followed by an introduction of CPUC staff and guests in attendance.

 

II.   Welcome and Remarks from the Communications Division

 

On behalf of Jack Leutza and the Communications Division at CPUC, Jonathan Lakritz thanked the Committees for all their work and the valuable insights they have provided to the CPUC over the past year.

 

  1. Introduction of CCAF Headquarters Staff

 

CCA F CEO Shelley Bergum introduced each of the department managers who described the role of their departments in the organization. Each manager then introduced the staff in their department and each person’s individual role within it. Shelley encouraged committee members to approach staff members with any questions they may have about the CCAF operations.

  1. FCC’s National Broadband Plan

 

Helen Mickiewicz of the CPUC presented a summary of the FCC’s 360 page National Broadband Plan to deploy and upgrade the availability of broadband nationwide.  The FCC has not yet approved the plan but has set a schedule to take comments throughout the rest of 2010 which they will then act upon in 2011, possibly earlier. The accessibility issues identified by the FCC are to be addressed by the FCC’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau and they have scheduled an Accessibility and Innovation Forum for the third quarter of 2010.  The CPUC anticipates there will be many questions about the interface between the national plan and our state programs.   

The FCC report recommends maintaining the present size of the Federal Universal Service Fund at a projected $33.4 billion but the projected revenues that support the program fall $24.3 billion below that amount. Potential sources to make up the difference are parts of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA): the Broadband Telecommunications Opportunities Program (BTOP) and the Commerce Department’s Broadband Initiative Program (BIP). The funding is a key issue as the FCC’s report recommends that the “federal government should, over time, end all financial support for networks that provide ‘Plain Old Telephone Service’”, or POTS, and instead transition $15.5 billion in funding over the next ten years from POTS to Broadband, gradually phasing out “legacy” high cost  support for Competitive Eligible Telecommunications Carriers (ETCs).  Right now support for Universal Service Fund comes from those legacy providers but VOIP providers are not required by California law to contribute to the fund. They do have to contribute to the Federal fund, however.

 Several questions were posed about funding: If the VOIPs are able to participate in the program and be subsidized, shouldn’t they also be contributing revenue? Should provider contribution rates be assessed by numbers, connections, or bandwidths? Should residential broadband be exempt from contributing? Some funding programs planned by the FCC are: The Connect America Fund which would replace legacy High Cost programs, fund areas unserved by private sector providers, and subsidize only one provider per geographic area, The Mobility Fund which would provide one time support for deployment of 3G networks, and the Tribal Broadband Fund which would support infrastructure projects on tribal lands.

The FCC also recommended expanding the LifeLine/Linkup program to make broadband more affordable for low-income households, although they didn’t address in any detail how they would do this other than to encourage more competition by shifting traffic onto wireless networks. Some barriers to affordability are cost, the digital literacy of users, and the relevance to their lives. Other problems are that devices aren’t designed for people with disabilities, assistive technologies are expensive, emergency services aren’t accessible, and web pages don’t support screen readers or pages don’t have captions.

 Helen stated that there are many parts of the country where there are only one or two broadband providers and that a third of United States households don’t take broadband, even when it is available. This surprised Chriz Dally who asked Helen about her source. Helen said that she had heard the figure from several different sources then added a disclaimer that she was not speaking on behalf of the Commission, but on her own behalf. Jonathan Lakritz recommended looking at the Pew Research Center website for information about broadband usage and adoption rates. Nancy Hammons and Chriz questioned why a person wouldn’t want broadband and Helen said that there are a variety of reasons such as cost or a resistance to new technology. Bapin Bhattacharyya described the frustrations of Deaf-Blind friends who had gone from land lines to broadband only to find themselves without phone access when their modems crashed or a router wasn’t working. They would rather have had a regular old phone. Helen said these were all important issues that the FCC will be looking at. Under federal law the CPUC cannot regulate broadband per se, but they can regulate voice-over Internet providers of phone service, so that would be where these issues could be aired and addressed.

Helen pointed out that accessibility issues took up only a page and a half in the FCC report but that this was at least a starting point to making broadband accessible and affordable for  Americans with disabilities. Colette Noble and Patrick Boudreault both asked about the diversity of the committees making these recommendations and whether they were representative of the constituencies they were serving. Richard Ray remarked on a workshop that the FCC had just held addressing this issue and said he would disseminate the information he had about it. Helen pointed out several recommendations made in the report that are pertinent to this discussion. Particularly, the federal government itself should become a model of accessibility and should establish a Broadband Accessibility Working Group made up of representatives from the communities that they’re trying to serve.  The group should also include representatives from several federal agencies and should prepare a report on broadband accessibility within a year after it is formed. The FCC should also establish an Accessibility and Innovation Forum that would bring together manufacturers, service providers, assistive technology companies and government representatives to develop products, applications, and assistive technologies. They further recommend that Congress, the FCC, and the DOJ should modernize accessibility laws, rules and related subsidy programs to ensure that services, equipment, and digital content are accessible to people with disabilities. Finally, the report recommends that the FCC and the state should require eligible telecommunications carriers to provide LifeLine service and discounts.

Tommy Leung asked, in light of the Comcast decision, whether the FCC has the power to implement all these recommendations and Helen replied that it has the means to implement the plan and in particular to adopt regulations pertaining to the Internet. In order to do so it has to reclassify Internet access service under Title II of the Communications Act  which regulates common carriers. Bapin commented on the lack of funding for research and development of equipment for the Deaf-Blind population that would be compliant with Universal Design and the need to find alternative funding sources.  Helen said that the FCC does not have the authority to offer incentives to companies to develop these technologies but that it could recommend that Congress do so.  After answering technical questions about broadband, Jonathan Lakritz spoke with the Committee about the future of CRS and its probable diminishing role as telecommunication technology continues to evolve.

  • Discussion on the Wireless Proposal

          Ann Ruth brought the Committee up to speed on why the proposal is where it is now and what it now contains. Ann stated that EPAC started researching wireless several years ago as land lines were shrinking and there was a push within the program for communication independence. After doing a lot of research, EPAC submitted it to TADDAC and then to the PUC and finally got the go ahead for a wireless trial. The trial came with a LifeLine income restriction which presented some challenges and proved to be a disadvantage to the program.  Phase I began with the T-Mobile Sidekick pagers which required credit checks and Social Security numbers of participants who were reluctant to give this information. EPAC did the best they could with this phase and then went on to Phase II which included the Jitterbug which worked really well. It was good for the vision-impaired, mobility-impaired, the hard-of-hearing, and the cognitively-impaired. The Jitterbug was suitable for many different groups of users and was also stable and a simple, straight-forward phone. Through the trial EPAC also found the loaner program preferable to a voucher program and that a prepaid or pay-as-you –go program was much better than the contract program that was part of Phase I. EPAC saw a trend toward wireless over land line phones and did not specify a particular phone but left the program open to the different types of devices that may be needed in the future. Nancy Hammons commented that it seems not a lot of people know about Jitterbug or Sidekick and the number of customers is not what it could be. Ann said that marketing has been mostly word-of-mouth and more internally that externally focused.  Loretta Moore suggested more outreach presentations paired with other groups and organizations and Ann said EPAC would be glad to do that. Several committee members remarked that it is a long time line between the idea, testing, approval, and implementation of new devices and that if the DDTP doesn’t keep up, people with disabilities will be left behind. EPAC was thanked by all for the terrific work done on the proposal. 

  • Lunch Break

  • Public Input

There was no public input but at this time Chriz Dally moved that TADDAC accept EPAC’s report and recommendations to include wireless communication devices as a permanent part of the DDTP program. The motion passed.

  • EPAC Report on Underserved Counties in CA

Loretta Moore headed an EPAC project to look at how the DDTP could better serve the disabled of California and she reported on their findings.  Using statistics gathered by the Department of Rehabilitation, EPAC found areas in the state where there hadn’t been enough services and labeled them unserved or underserved areas. Many of the areas were on the county borderlines of Arizona, Nevada and Oregon. Data was broken down into the number of persons in each county with disabilities compared to the makeup of the population of the county as a whole, with concentration focused on the counties with the greatest number of disability groups in their populations. EPAC also looked at the outreach that had already been done in each area and concluded that Imperial County and San Bernardino County were the areas most in need of attention.  Plans for future events will be focused in the Victorville area of San Bernardino County where EPAC will look at the number of available community services and the number of existing CTAP customers so that an off-site event will have the greatest impact. Patrick Boudreault noted that much of the data used was from the 2000 census and the most recent data was from 2007 and that much may have changed since. Loretta agreed that the economic crisis and the Iraq war in particular will most likely have changed these numbers considerably and that the 2010 census data will provide more valid data. 

 

          At this point in the meeting Chriz Dally asked to revisit the discussion from the previous TADDAC meeting about the new 3 cent long distance and toll charges that will go into effect with the new relay providers and her concerns that the public receive adequate notification. Linda Gustafson reported that the CPUC had been working to put the notice in plain English and to get clarification from AT&T as to how various calling plans will interact and how they will convey this information to the public. This will be a transition period that will involve engineering, training of operators, and consumer education.  Selection of long distance providers will be part of the profile process and Speech-to-Speech callers may opt for an unlimited long distance plan. The Committee agreed to put this item on the agenda for the June 24th TADDAC meeting for further discussion.

  1. Discussion with OneWorld Communications

          OneWorld Communications Account Supervisor Mark Allen introduced Teresa Schnabel, Director of Marketing Research, who shared findings from a recent survey of 26 members of the advisory committees and the DDTP outreach team. OneWorld’s primary goal of both the survey and the meeting was to get feedback on users of CTAP services. Teresa presented the top three findings of the survey. When asked what influenced a decision to use CTAP services, the majority of respondents stated that relatives, friends with disabilities, and medical professionals were most influential. Next the participants were asked what lifestyle needs and values had the most impact on their decision to use CTAP equipment. Most respondents said their safety or ability to get help was most important followed by the need for independence, social interaction, and overall well-being. Then survey participants were given a list of barriers or inhibiting factors to using CTAP equipment and the respondents were broken down into those over and under 65 years of age. For those over 65, using the technology was the biggest barrier followed by the difficulty in getting a doctor’s signature, the stigma of being labeled disabled, unfamiliarity with organizational procedures, reluctance to accept free services, and fears of interacting with government authorities. For those under 65, being labeled disabled was the biggest barrier, followed by getting a doctor’s signature, dealing with government authorities, using technology, accepting free services, and being unaccustomed to organizational procedures. 

          Teresa then asked the Committees to list characteristics that they felt were common to CTAP users, regardless of age or type of disability. Loretta Moore mentioned that people with disabilities have to jump through hoops to get the services they need.  Colette Noble spoke of the difficulty of finding access to services and that disabled persons have to be perseverant. Patrick Boudreault thought the survey itself was too complicated.  Teresa said that the survey was not going out to the public but that in the future OneWorld would be speaking to users one on one to find out what distinguishes people who have made the effort to overcome all these barriers, who have the motivation.  Some other traits of CTAP users mentioned were awareness of services, being able to pay a doctor to be certified, and wanting the same conveniences and to do the same things that their able-bodied friends do. Chriz Dally remarked that despite all the differences within the disabled community, access is the one thing that draws people together, and it is important to respect all the differences among people and to pay attention to how questions are asked.  The Committee members suggested that OneWorld focus marketing on primary care physicians, ophthalmologists and optometrists, other outreach agencies, and public transit but to please run their campaign plans by the Committee first.

  • Individual Committee Meetings

 

          The TADDAC and EPAC Committees met separately to review their respective Action Item Lists and to discuss ongoing business.

 

  • Joint Discussion of the Budget  “Must Haves” Proposal

Patrick Boudreault asked the Committee to approve the items listed by considering what the PUC has done historically in order to prioritize the most important items. The Committee went over the document item by item and made the following decisions:

  1. Make sure there are enough funds to notify consumers about the change in rate structure.
  2. CRSAC has already been removed.
  3. Change wording of pagers and cell phones to “wireless hand-held communication devices”.
  4. Alter wording to better define persons using devices and incorporate language to say volunteers will be subsidized for making test calls and that there will be both digital and analog telephone access in the test room.
  5. Ask that Marketing accept input from the Committee and that they speak more directly about how to address best practices.
  6. Keep the goal of having two offsite meetings a year to increase outreach but change schedule to reflect changed committee structure.
  7. Continue to seek ways using technology that allow more people to participate in meetings remotely.
  8. Be more specific about frequency and duration of member orientations and add language “to be reviewed as needed.”
  9. Add language “in compliance with Section 508 of the ADA code” and consult the advisory members before making any change to the website.
  10. As the new loop system is already in place, remove item and add new number ten to have paid volunteers test the new CRS system.

          Patrick Boudreault and Nancy Hammons arranged to meet with Shelley Bergum on May 28th at which time they will complete the draft of this document and bring it back to the table for review at the June 24th TADDAC meeting.

 

          At this point in the meeting Ann Ruth asked to readdress the Wireless Proposal to expand the list of certifying agents who approve participants  for the program. After much back and forth regarding protocol, legalities, and wording, the Committee voted in favor of adding the request to the Wireless Proposal.

 

  • Closing Remarks and Adjournment

 

There were no closing remarks and the meeting was adjourned at 4:22 pm.

 

These minutes were prepared by Patsy Emerson.