Is the Safety of Individuals who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing at Risk?
- Thursday, 03 April 2014 04:06
Letter to the Editor – The Gazette
As a Deaf man and father of two toddlers, and a Deaf wife living in Colorado Springs, and as the Chair of The Independence Center board of directors, I am writing to express my concern about the deregulation of telecommunications systems in this state and the possible loss of landlines. There are five bills in the State Legislature that propose to stop funding maintenance of land lines and move those funds to Broad band expansion as well as deregulate all telephone services (landlines, cell and VOIP). When you buy a VOIP system you are told to make sure you have an alternative way to call 911. Without landlines, what would that alternative be? In California, the price of measured basic telephone service went from $5 to $23 a month, hardly affordable for most seniors and persons with disabilities.
911 currently does not work for deaf people at all given there is no known reliable texting capabilities in El Paso County. We use the 7 digit regular number to call. The new E911 that Colorado Springs is installing cannot provide reverse 911 calls through the Internet to deaf households. On landlines we could receive warning messages so this is a decrease from our already limited access. During the Waldo Canyon Fire, several Deaf people either evacuated very late or not at all because they did not get the alert. I am deeply concerned for the safety of Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and senior individuals should land lines not be maintained. In order to maintain those lines and have a way to track and address our complaints with the communications system in Colorado, I urge that deregulation be delayed until the new E911 safety issue for everyone is addressed and that the State Legislature not remove funds from landline maintenance until the wireless and VOIP networks are as reliable as landlines. Change is coming–l know that one day we will be finished with Landlines but not until the new technology is as good as the old for all of us.
The Independence Center board
Are Cell Phones Reliable in an Emergency?
- Thursday, 03 April 2014 03:58
Letter to the Editor – Denver Post
It is widely agreed that landline telephones will eventually be replaced by cell phone usage. This poses the question: will this happen before the technology is robust enough to replace that ultra-reliable system? (Colorado Needs New Telecom Regulation, 3/31/14)
- For seniors and those of us who are hard of hearing, the landline’s ring and voice amplification system are far superior to cell phone technology. Premature pushing of wireless service may create a large group of people who are left outside of any communications system.
- The connection between the 911 System and the new technology requires improvement in order for everyone to receive reliable disaster alerts. When buying a VOIP system, people are advised to have an alternative to make 911 calls. Taking away the maintenance funding for landlines (high cost fund) is taking away that backup method.
- If the PUC regulates 911 Service but not the communications system, how will it make the communications system responsive to 911?
- Deregulating all communications services leaves Colorado without aggregated complaint data; data the State legislature needs to implement the “claw-back” system for re-regulation. Relying on the Federal Communications Commission or the state Attorney General to resolve complaints at the local level is not efficient or effective.
- What happens to the Disabled Telephone Users Fund (a five cent per line monthly charge) when landlines disappear? This fund supports the federally mandated Relay Service for deaf telephone users and the Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing and Telephone Reading Service for the blind. How will these vital communication services continue?
Let’s not abandon seniors and people who are hard of hearing or Deaf in the transition to wireless service, which may not reliable in an emergency. Telecommunication companies need to address our issues before such a transition takes place and there should be local oversight. After deregulating the communications system, these companies will have no incentive to maintain anything but the means to make a profit at the expense of safety.
Patricia Yeager, Ph.D.
Chief Executive Officer
The Independence Center