Deaf and hard of hearing individuals should be able to use relay anytime with anyone using any relay provider, just as two persons who can hear can call each other, regardless of their telephone product or service provider.

The NAD has always taken a strong position in favor of open interoperability in communication systems. The NAD appreciates the fact that competing technologies allow companies to develop faster, better, and more user-friendly equipment and services. These technologies bring deaf and hard of hearing consumers closer to achieving telephone network services that are functionally equivalent to telephone users. However, the lack of interoperability among relay services and products now requires consumers to juggle different systems, devices, and services – each of which have their own software and connectivity requirements and standards.

The NAD strongly believes the FCC should issue a ruling that requires relay products and services to be backwardly compatible and interoperable, as defined by a set of FCC-prescribed standards that will apply across all relay providers. Such standards should be all encompassing, and yet flexible enough to include existing and future technologies.

For example, Video Relay Service (VRS) and videophones have become valuable tools for deaf and hard of hearing individuals. However, VRS videophones have interoperability limitations. Today, consumers must obtain specific videophone equipment that will function (make and receive calls, retain call history data, deliver video mail messages, etc.) with the VRS provider of their choice. The NAD advocates for “interoperable” videophones – any videophone will work with any VRS provider – to give consumers real choices of videophones. The NAD has urged the FCC to take the steps necessary to ensure that consumers have the ability to obtain videophones, in a timely manner, from a variety of sources, including from VRS providers.