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Providing Content in Canada's Official Languages

Please note that the Official Languages Act requires that government publications be available in both official languages.

In order to meet some of the requirements under this Act, the Commission's transcripts will therefore be bilingual as to their covers, the listing of CRTC members and staff attending the hearings, and the table of contents.

However, the aforementioned publication is the recorded verbatim transcript and, as such, is transcribed in either of the official languages, depending on the language spoken by the participant at the hearing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

              TRANSCRIPT OF PROCEEDINGS BEFORE

             THE CANADIAN RADIO‑TELEVISION AND

               TELECOMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION

 

 

 

 

             TRANSCRIPTION DES AUDIENCES DEVANT

              LE CONSEIL DE LA RADIODIFFUSION

           ET DES TÉLÉCOMMUNICATIONS CANADIENNES

 

 

                      SUBJECT / SUJET:

 

 

 

Unresolved issues related to the accessibility of

telecommunications and broadcasting services to

persons with disabilities /

Questions en suspens concernant l'accessibilité des

services de télécommunication et de radiodiffusion pour

les personnes handicapées

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HELD AT:                              TENUE À:

 

Conference Centre                     Centre de conférences

Outaouais Room                        Salle Outaouais

140 Promenade du Portage              140, Promenade du Portage

Gatineau, Quebec                      Gatineau (Québec)

 

November 21, 2008                     Le 21 novembre 2008

 


 

 

 

 

Transcripts

 

In order to meet the requirements of the Official Languages

Act, transcripts of proceedings before the Commission will be

bilingual as to their covers, the listing of the CRTC members

and staff attending the public hearings, and the Table of

Contents.

 

However, the aforementioned publication is the recorded

verbatim transcript and, as such, is taped and transcribed in

either of the official languages, depending on the language

spoken by the participant at the public hearing.

 

 

 

 

Transcription

 

Afin de rencontrer les exigences de la Loi sur les langues

officielles, les procès‑verbaux pour le Conseil seront

bilingues en ce qui a trait à la page couverture, la liste des

membres et du personnel du CRTC participant à l'audience

publique ainsi que la table des matières.

 

Toutefois, la publication susmentionnée est un compte rendu

textuel des délibérations et, en tant que tel, est enregistrée

et transcrite dans l'une ou l'autre des deux langues

officielles, compte tenu de la langue utilisée par le

participant à l'audience publique.


               Canadian Radio‑television and

               Telecommunications Commission

 

            Conseil de la radiodiffusion et des

               télécommunications canadiennes

 

 

                 Transcript / Transcription

 

 

Unresolved issues related to the accessibility of

telecommunications and broadcasting services to

persons with disabilities /

Questions en suspens concernant l'accessibilité des

services de télécommunication et de radiodiffusion pour

les personnes handicapées

 

 

 

BEFORE / DEVANT:

 

Leonard Katz                      Chairperson / Président

Elizabeth Duncan                  Commissioner / Conseillère

Timothy Denton                    Commissioner / Conseiller

Suzanne Lamarre                   Commissioner / Conseillère

Candice Molnar                    Commissioner / Conseillère

Stephen Simpson                   Commissioner / Conseiller

 

 

ALSO PRESENT / AUSSI PRÉSENTS:

 

Sylvie Bouffard                   Secretary / Secretaire

Kathleen Taylor                   Hearing Manager /

                                  Gérante de l'audience

Martine Vallée                    Director, Social Policy /

                                  Directrice, Politiques

Sheila Perron                     Hearing Officer /

                                  Agente d'audiences

Lori Pope                         Legal Counsel /

Véronique Lehoux                  Conseillères juridiques

 

 

HELD AT:                          TENUE À:

 

Conference Centre                 Centre de conférences

Outaouais Room                    Salle Outaouais

140 Promenade du Portage          140, Promenade du Portage

Gatineau, Quebec                  Gatineau (Québec)

 

November 21, 2008                 Le 21 novembre 2008


- iv -

 

           TABLE DES MATIÈRES / TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

 

                                                 PAGE / PARA

 

PRESENTATION BY / PRÉSENTATION PAR:

 

 

MTS Allstream                                    1244 / 7462

 

GoAmerica, Inc.                                  1339 / 8083

 

Sorenson Communications of Canada, ULC           1412 / 8550

 

National Broadcast Reading Service               1472 / 8956

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Gatineau, Quebec / Gatineau (Québec)

‑‑‑ Upon resuming on Friday, November 21, 2008

    at 0900 / L'audience reprend le vendredi

    21 novembre 2008 à 0900

7452             THE CHAIRPERSON:  Good morning and welcome to day five, but not the last day, of this proceeding.

7453             Madam Secretary, any opening remarks?

7454             THE SECRETARY:  Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  Bonjour à tous.

7455             I would just like to remind you that when you are in the hearing room we ask that you completely turn off your cell phones and BlackBerrys as they are an unwelcome distraction and as they will cause interference on the internal communication systems used by our translators and interpreters.

7456             We would appreciate your cooperation in this regard throughout the hearing.

7457             Please note also that ASL and LSQ sign language interpretation services will be made available throughout the hearing if needed.  Please advise the Hearing Secretary if you require such services.


7458             Furthermore, French and English captioning of the hearing is available on the screens to my left, as well as on the CRTC's Web home page.

7459             If you require assistance during the consultation, our staff members in and outside the hearing room or in the public examination room will be pleased to help you.

7460             We will begin this morning's presentations with MTS Allstream.

7461             Please introduce yourselves and proceed with your 15‑minute presentation.

PRESENTATION / PRÉSENTATION

7462             MS GRIFFIN‑MUIR:  Good morning.  My name is Teresa Griffin‑Muir.  I am the Vice‑President of Regulatory Affairs at MTS Allstream.

7463             With me today are Kelvin Shepherd, the President of our Consumer Markets Division, and Pat Solman, Vice‑President, Customer Care.

7464             Kelvin provides the overall direction, strategy and leadership for MTS Allstream's consumer and small business markets and is responsible for sales, service and operational support for customers in Manitoba.

7465             Pat is in charge of customer care in Manitoba, including special needs assistance.

7466             Now I will turn it over to Kelvin to make our presentation.


7467             MR. SHEPHERD:  Good morning.

7468             I would first like to express our support for the need for us to continue to make accommodations for customers faced with accessibility challenges when trying to use our products and services.  We also appreciate the challenge the Commission is facing in trying to determine which initiatives will deliver substantial and sustainable benefits to these customers.

7469             Some issues faced by these customers have been alleviated by initiatives such as the introduction of Manitoba relay service, closed captioning and described video services that were undertaken as a consequence of previous Commission decisions.

7470             As well, technological advances, particularly in the area of terminal equipment, have played a role in improving the accessibility of communications services.

7471             For example, TTY devices are generally more portable today than they were even a few years ago and SMS, or Short Message Service, is enabling hearing‑impaired individuals to communicate seamlessly with their friends and business associates.


7472             However, the number of diverse proposals from the individuals and organizations participating in the proceeding serve to highlight the breadth of the challenges faced by customers themselves on the one hand and the challenges in developing solutions to achieve economically sustainable seamless accessibility on the other.

7473             Through the course of this proceeding some parties have made proposals that could help achieve this delicate balance.  One such accommodation that may deliver heightened accessibility and that has been requested by and on behalf of persons who are deaf, deafened and hard of hearing, is a national video relay service, or national VRS as it is referred to.

7474             In fact, the Canadian Association of the Deaf even identified VRS as "the top priority at the moment for deaf people".

7475             While we would not be able to implement VRS on our own, we would be willing to participate in a national VRS offering.  Of course, care will have to be taken in choosing a solution that is cost efficient as well as effective in meeting the needs of the users of the service.  As well, a funding mechanism would be necessary to support VRS.


7476             Another theme that has emerged from the varied proposals received during this proceeding is the focus on customer service.

7477             While there continue to be practical and economic challenges, we have been able to retain a special services representative to help accommodate Manitobans with special needs by helping them to find the best product and service solutions to meet their individual communications requirements.  Our service relationship with all our customers is an integral part of who we are.

7478             Therefore, to the greatest extent practicable, we undertake to provide all our customers with a service experience that gives them value.

7479             MS SOLMAN:  This proceeding has highlighted the diverse service needs of customers with accessibility issues.  Because these needs are so diverse, we as service providers face significant challenges in providing services that truly meet customer needs while fitting in with economic realities.


7480             While we cannot tailor all solutions to every individual need, we will continue to develop a number ways to make our products and services more accessible.  To this end, we will be introducing several initiatives in 2009 to improve the affordability and effectiveness of communications for Manitobans with disabilities.  These include improved long distance calling plans for Manitoba relay service users and a wireless text and data plan for individuals with auditory impairments.

7481             We will also be setting up an accessibility product display kiosk in the MTS Corporate Store to provide information about our accessibility products and services.  The kiosk will also allow customers to check out products before buying.

7482             As well, we are examining the feasibility of waiving certain feature charges, like the Star‑69 fee, to assist MTS Allstream customers with visual impairments.

7483             Also, we are using some of the deferral account funds to make our MTS.ca consumer website more accessible to people with visual, hearing, motor and cognitive impairments.


7484             In order to ensure these modifications are of value to our customers with accessibility issues, we engaged an accessibility expert to review the current state of the MTS.ca website and recommend improvements to make the website more accessible.  With the assessment just completed, we have now commenced work on the design of the revamped site and expect to fully launch in Q4 2009.

7485             Our first step has been to go live with a new web page on MTS.ca that provides details of the products and services that MTS Allstream currently offers in Manitoba to enhance communications for our customers with disabilities.  Feedback from customers who use this web page will assist us with future refinements.

7486             Our plan, in keeping with the recommendations made in the accessibility assessment, is to follow the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines version 2.0.  The improvements will enable users with visual difficulties to navigate the website quickly and easily using screen reading software.

7487             As well, all non‑text content that is presented to the user will have a text‑based equivalent.  Instructions provided to assist users with understanding or operating content will not rely solely on sensory characteristics such as shape, size, visual location, orientation or sound.  All web pages will have titles describing their topic or purpose and labels or instructions will be provided when the content requires user input.  Content functionality on each page will be accessible through a keyboard interface.


7488             These are just some examples of the improvements that are being planned.

7489             We are also establishing new internal processes to ensure accessibility guidelines are adhered to for future changes, including the design of new pages on MTS.ca.  Our goal is to have a fluid policy with respect to accessibility.

7490             In the case of the website, this will be achieved by ensuring that as new pages are added accessible functions are maintained.

7491             As further insurance, we will also be putting in place quality control measures, including conducting periodic reviews of the MTS.ca website, to ensure ongoing accessibility for people with disabilities.

7492             This proceeding has increased our sensitivity to the numerous and diverse accessibility needs of our customers.  It is clear that we all face challenges in making services accessible to the widest possible number of customers.  We are optimistic that, in addition to the measures already in place and under way, many of these challenges will be addressed through continued advances in technology and the rapid evolution of devices that interact with our network.


7493             Thank you for this opportunity to participate in the hearing.

7494             THE CHAIRPERSON:  Thank you very much.

7495             I would ask Commissioner Molnar to begin some follow‑up questions.

7496             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  Good morning.  Thank you for your presentation.

7497             I am going to begin by some questions related to your telecommunications services and let's maybe begin with the issue of relay services.

7498             Today do you provide relay services in‑house or is that a contract?  Do you contract that out?

7499             MS SOLMAN:  Our Manitoba relay services is provided in‑house.

7500             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  It is in‑house?

7501             MS SOLMAN:  It is in‑house, yes.

7502             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  Okay.  One of the things we have asked other parties, and I would ask of you as well, is if you could provide us some information or the information regarding the volume of transactions that you have processed through your in‑house message relay over the last five years.

7503             MS SOLMAN:  Over the last five years, okay.  We can do that.


7504             Today the process about 8,000 calls in a month.  That is the current volumes today in the past 12 months, but we can take it back and provide the last five years.

7505             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  Okay.  Maybe what I would ask ‑‑ I may perhaps need to be a little clearer between MTS and MTS Allstream.

7506             Does your in‑house service also provides service for your Allstream business customers?

7507             MS SOLMAN:  No, it only provides service to consumer customers in Manitoba.

7508             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  Oh, okay.  That's good.  Thank you.  So if you would provide those details.

7509             Do you have with you the rate you charge for message relay?

7510             MS GRIFFIN‑MUIR:  Yes, it's $.25.

7511             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  $.25?

7512             MS GRIFFIN‑MUIR:  Yes.

7513             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  Do you also charge your business customers?

7514             MS GRIFFIN‑MUIR:  I guess the single‑line business customers.

7515             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  Yes.  And outside of Manitoba?


7516             MS GRIFFIN‑MUIR:  Outside of Manitoba it would be the rate that the ILEC in those areas charges.  It's just a kind of flowthrough rate.

7517             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  Okay.  Another piece of information that I have asked of some other participants is, if you could, to give us a sense as to what are the primary cost components of providing message relay service in‑house.

7518             Obviously operator services is a key component.  Do you provide the TTY units as part of that $.25 charge?

7519             MS SOLMAN:  No, the customers buy them themselves, the TTY units.

7520             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  Okay.  So if you could tell us what are the major cost components that ‑‑

7521             MS SOLMAN:  Yes, we can do that.

7522             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  Thank you.  I note in your presentation that you speak of the national VRS service and you state that you will be prepared to participate in a VRS service.

7523             I didn't see any comments here related to an IP relay service.

7524             Do you have plans today as it relates to IP relay service?


7525             MR. SHEPHERD:  No, we don't have current plans and I don't believe we have really studied the feasibility of IP relay service to any extent.

7526             On the VRS service staff did have some preliminary discussions several years ago looking at the options for VRS and at that time talked to I believe it may have been Sprint U.S., who was interested at least at a high level in the potential of such a service.

7527             However, of course they didn't have French language and other capabilities that would have been required.

7528             I think really the only conclusion we drew from those discussions was that it probably wasn't economic for us to do it independently; that it would have to be probably an outsource or third‑party service and there would have to be a larger initiative in order for us to really be able to effectively participate in that.

7529             I don't believe we have had any discussions or looked seriously at the IP relay service concept.


7530             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  Okay.  Tell me if I'm wrong.  The way I view IP relay service is it is really next generation message relay service.

7531             MR. SHEPHERD:  Yes.  As my understanding ‑‑ and I'm certainly not an expert on it, Commissioner ‑‑ it would be an extension of the current MRS to allow broader access through Internet‑based devices, but it would be an extension of the current service.

7532             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  Yes.  For the same group of users in effect.

7533             MR. SHEPHERD:  I believe it really would be targeted at the same group of users that would currently access the service, but it would give them a broader access mechanism and potentially perhaps the technology would allow some improvements in the way that access worked.

7534             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  Right.  Would you have any concerns in participating in a national IP relay service initiative?

7535             MR. SHEPHERD:  No, I don't believe we would.  Obviously the concerns would be similar to VRS.  It would be understanding the implementation and how we would participate and the mechanism for cost recovery or funding for the initiative.


7536             But I don't think in principle we would view it as anything that would ‑‑ in fact, we would want to participate if there was such an initiative.

7537             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  Really my thoughts ‑‑ and this is only my thought so it maybe means nothing.  If there was to be a national IP relay service, it would seem to me to make some sense to also go to at national MRS operator because of what appears to me to be some economies and synergies.

7538             Would that be of concern to MTS?

7539             MR. SHEPHERD:  Well, I think the issues there would be probably twofold.

7540             Certainly I think in principle an opportunity to improve service accessibility and lower costs would be of interest if it benefited the users of the service.  It would certainly be something we would want to look at.

7541             I think there are some practical issues, because we operate our MRS today in‑house.  There is obviously employment.  It is a unionized workforce so there would be some potential contract issues with outsourcing or contracting out that would have to be looked at.  So there may have to be ‑‑ I think that would be a practical look at it; if we were going to participate in that, how we would be able to address those issues.


7542             I think in terms of the opportunity, if it was cost effective and improved service levels it would be certainly something we would be willing to explore.

7543             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  Thank you.

7544             I would like to move on to the issue of terminal equipment and particularly wireless and mobile handsets.

7545             Can you tell me if you procure or have available for your customers particular handsets that support the disabled communities?

7546             MR. SHEPHERD:  Specific to wireless handsets we are talking about now, Commissioner?

7547             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  Right.

7548             MR. SHEPHERD:  Yes.  Well, we carry a number of wireless handsets that would be compatible with hearing aids or hearing impaired individuals.  Generally those models meet certain specifications.

7549             I'm not familiar with all the details, but we have a reasonable number of handsets that were compatible.


7550             I think we have a number of wireless handsets that are also compatible with TTY devices, and we carry I think at least two TTY devices that will work with those wireless handsets to provide portable TTY service.

7551             We don't have a handset that is specific to a request I often hear, which is for a larger handset, you know, specially designed for people that have more difficulty using a smaller handset with a smaller keyboard.  We at this time don't carry that type of device.

7552             We have had discussions over the years with handset manufacturers about carrying such a kind of specially designed device.  In fact, I think we had recent discussions with one.

7553             Generally speaking we have found it difficult to meet the minimum volume purchase requirements.

7554             You know, typically what we have found in the past is a handset manufacturer will want an order on the order of 5,000 devices, which we have found is uneconomic to commit to a purchase in one year of 5,000 devices of such a kind of specialized device.

7555             So we continue to have the discussions, but we don't carry one of those devices today.


7556             Beyond that, obviously there is a number of what I call more standards SMART phones, text messaging type devices that are used by typically people that are deaf or hearing impaired for text messaging or e‑messaging services.

7557             But we don't offer a handset that is particularly specialized or orientated.  It is generally generally‑available product that people are using for those purposes.

7558             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  I'm going to ask the question so Chairman Katz doesn't.

7559             We heard a similar story from SaskTel related to minimum purchase levels and the fact that, you know, the product wasn't available because the company couldn't meet minimum purchase or it wasn't economical.

7560             On the other hand, if you are a consumer who is blind, there is great value in having your service provider provide you that service.  As you know, you get the handset, you get the plan, you get guaranteed service and support, which all falls apart if the terminal isn't brought in by the service provider.

7561             So the challenge that was given to SaskTel, and I think the same challenge given to you is:  How else?  Have you looked?


7562             For example, you run the same network as SaskTel or the same technology.  Have you looked at getting together to meet those minimum buy levels so that you could bring it in and provide a service, you know, a handset that meets the needs of your consumers who have visual disabilities and support that service for them?

7563             MR. SHEPHERD:  Although today we still do some joint procurement with in fact SaskTel and Bell, I believe there have been previous discussions around trying to jointly procure devices.  I'm not sure of all the reasons those haven't been successful.

7564             But I do understand your point, Commissioner, and certainly would agree with you that the optimum situation for the customer is for the service provider to provide a turnkey service that is then supported.  But we don't do that today.

7565             We certainly have had, as I have described, discussions in the past aimed at doing that.  They haven't been successful, but we will continue to have those discussions and, as you suggest, perhaps there are broader alternatives as an industry that we could try to pursue to make some of those things more viable.


7566             Generally speaking, as you say, the technology that we currently are using for wireless is CDMA technology, and it does present some unique challenges in terms of procuring compatible handsets.

7567             Perhaps there are opportunities, even things that will come out of this hearing, as we go forward, that will open up some of those opportunities.

7568             Technologies continue to evolve.  Handsets are continuing to evolve, and we would hope that, at some point in time, we could find an economic way to provide that type of device to customers.

7569             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  I think what I heard you say, Mr. Shepherd, is that perhaps sometime it could happen, and perhaps we will have some discussions, which leaves us in a bit of a box, frankly.  If there are no assurances that any of that could occur, then the only way to make those assurances is through regulatory directive.

7570             Unless the industry steps up with some commitments to do it on its own, it is left with the regulator.

7571             And "perhaps" doesn't necessarily help our decision.


7572             MR. SHEPHERD:  Let me go back to my previous comments.  We have had discussions in the past.  We have pursued the opportunity.  We have, in fact, as recently as this year, had more discussions with handset vendors, trying to find a solution.  Those haven't been successful.  We will continue to pursue those.  We will continue to look for opportunities.

7573             I will take your suggestion of, for example, talking to SaskTel, who we happen to be meeting with next week.  I will raise the issue with them to see if that is an opportunity we could work on together.

7574             But we are a relatively small wireless provider, in terms of our handset volume and purchasing power, and I can tell you from discussions on numerous handset issues, not even related to this, that our ability to sway vendors is somewhat limited.

7575             So, unfortunately, I can't make a promise that I can't deliver, but what I can promise you is that we will continue to pursue the opportunities and the discussions, and we will try to find solutions that work.

7576             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  Just understand that when you began to speak of discussions with vendors, we are certainly not ‑‑ I wasn't talking about creating new handsets or anything to that extent, but simply procuring and bringing into your product portfolio a product that would work for this community.


7577             MR. SHEPHERD:  Perhaps, Commissioner, I could expand a little bit on that.  I think there is a perception that it is simply a matter of acquiring a handset.

7578             Typically, why manufacturers are having these minimum order volume quantities is that everybody, particularly in the CDMA world ‑‑ I am not as familiar with the alternative technology, but when you go to acquire a new handset, typically the manufacturer creates a custom software load to make it compatible with the network provider.  It is not normally a matter of simply acquiring a handset and acquiring an order volume.

7579             Handset manufacturers are imposing these types of minimum volume requirements because, typically, there is an investment that is required upfront on their part to configure and customize and build the software for the handset.  They want to recover that, obviously, over a volume of handsets.

7580             Then, of course, from a service provider point of view, any handset that is brought in has to be tested and certified on your own network.

7581             So even in the case of perhaps SaskTel and ourselves, which have very similar networks, there typically is a unique software configuration and load that the manufacturer puts in.


7582             Quite frankly, the volumes vary.  Five thousand may seem high, but a typical minimum order volume for a handset is closer to 30,000.

7583             So, even at the 5,000 level, you are already kind of getting to the point where the cost of the individual handset goes up, because of that common overhead cost of configuring and loading it.

7584             There are some practical economic considerations that enter into it.  It isn't just a matter of the handset ‑‑ of vendors having something and wanting us to buy 5,000, there are other cost factors that enter into the decision as to whether you can economically introduce a handset.

7585             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  Thanks for that.

7586             Maybe that segues very well into what I wanted to speak of next, that is, handsets that are procured in other jurisdictions.  If you are not providing it in‑house, there are, I believe, some CDMA compatible handsets that meet the requirements of certain consumer groups.

7587             What is your company's position as it regards enabling those on your network and supporting them?


7588             MR. SHEPHERD:  Typically, as I said, a handset ‑‑ CDMA is different from GSM.  Let me start from that point of view.

7589             If you had GSM technology, or GSM stream technology ‑‑ there are several variations ‑‑ typically handsets ‑‑ you will hear the terms "locked", "unlocked", "SIM cards", and there are still some issues, which I could explain, but it is somewhat more practical to take a SIM card from one device, plug it into another device and, essentially, activate it on a different network.

7590             In the case of a CDMA handset, typically that capability doesn't exist.  The software is loaded and configured by the vendor to work with a particular carrier's network, and there is limited capability to take that handset and activate it on another carrier.

7591             It can be done, but generally what happens is, features break and don't work across the different networks, because of configuration.

7592             So, typically, what would have to happen is, the carrier would have to ‑‑ I guess the best way to describe it is reload and reconfigure the handset with an entirely different software configuration.


7593             In most cases they don't do that.  It is almost cheaper to give you a new handset that is configured to work with your network.

7594             Typically, in the past, when networks were simpler, when it was analog, or when it was early digital technology, customers could take a handset that, say, had worked with TELUS, and we would flash it with some simple configuration changes, and they could activate it on our network.

7595             As handsets have become more complex and have a lot more features and software loaded into them, it isn't a matter of simply moving from one carrier to another.

7596             So it is very difficult, I would say, for customers to buy a CDMA handset from Verizon in the U.S. and bring it in, and have us activate it for them, and have it easily work.  It can be done, but it is typically not standard practice to do that.

7597             Generally, we would prefer to try to sell customers a handset that we know is loaded and configured properly to work with our network and can be supported.

7598             THE CHAIRPERSON:  Can I ask a question?

7599             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  Okay.


7600             THE CHAIRPERSON:  Coming from the wireless industry, are you telling us, Mr. Shepherd, that CDMA customers in the United States and Canada cannot roam on the MTS network in Manitoba?

7601             MR. SHEPHERD:  No, I didn't say roaming ‑‑

7602             THE CHAIRPERSON:  It's a phone.  It's a phone coming from the U.S., it's a phone coming from Bell Aliant, it's a phone coming from TELUS, coming into Winnipeg or Brandon, and you are saying that the services and the applications don't work?

7603             MR. SHEPHERD:  Commissioner, what I said was ‑‑

7604             First of all, let me step back and say no.  Generally there are roaming agreements.  It depends on which carrier you are with, but the roaming agreements are in place.

7605             THE CHAIRPERSON:  All that happens in a roaming agreement is that the NPA‑NXX from one carrier is loaded into the switch of the other carrier.

7606             You can find every one of them in North America.

7607             MR. SHEPHERD:  Let me give you an example, though, Commissioner, of what I am talking about in terms of a feature that won't work.  I will give you a specific one.


7608             Take a common service like picture messaging.  The service that we happen to use requires a particular software client to be loaded on the handset.  It's a customized software client.  It works with a particular third party picture messaging service bureau.

7609             If you took that handset, as it was configured, and tried to make it work on, say, the TELUS network, TELUS uses an entirely different service bureau, and an entirely different software client, so you would have to re‑program the handset and reload it with compatible software to get that feature to work.

7610             However, the handset will work in a roaming configuration, because you are really just directing the traffic to the proper service bureau.  But if you try to take that phone and activate it on a different carrier, which has a whole bunch of ‑‑ maybe the same application, but different and unique software configurations loaded on it, clearly, it is not going to work when you try to re‑program that set to be activated on a different carrier.


7611             The basic functionality will work, but many of the enhanced features and services that are provided won't work, and, clearly, no provider wants to be in the position of having a customer with a handset and having the features that they expect will work, or that they may be paying for, not work because of incompatible software.

7612             THE CHAIRPERSON:  I thought it was TELUS that said that they don't have a JitterBug product, but they have an equivalent product, and they are CDMA as well.

7613             So they are bringing this product in from somewhere, or getting it from somewhere.  I doubt if they are buying it in 5,000‑unit lots, either.

7614             That product would work on your network, or would it not work on your network?

7615             MR. SHEPHERD:  I am not familiar with what TELUS is providing.  If the details were provided, I would certainly look at it, and we could tell you the details about what it would take to make it work.

7616             THE CHAIRPERSON:  You may want to take a look at their evidence from Tuesday morning, and perhaps respond in your final submission as to whether it would or would not.

7617             MR. SHEPHERD:  Sure.

7618             THE CHAIRPERSON:  I apologize.

7619             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  I tried to deflect him, but it didn't work.

‑‑‑ Laughter / Rires


7620             MR. SHEPHERD:  That's all right, he was going to get there anyways.

‑‑‑ Laughter / Rires

7621             MR. SHEPHERD:  He's not finished, either, but he'll wait.

7622             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  Just before we leave this, you spoke about the economic limitations of bringing in a product that would service the community, and you spoke about the technical limitations of supporting products, if your customers were to go out and acquire them themselves.

7623             Tell me what would be your preferred approach to ensuring that consumers, in your market, are provided access to terminals that meet their needs, acquiring it yourself, or providing service and support to devices they would bring in?

7624             MR. SHEPHERD:  I think it's fair to say that we would prefer the one that gave the best service and the best economics.

7625             Some phones, smartphones, particularly, which we do offer, I know that customers can acquire specialized software and load it themselves, and certainly we support that.


7626             To the point of which one is the best solution, I think that either one is acceptable, but if you had to pick one, I would think that from a customer's ‑‑

7627             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  If you had to pick one, Mr. Shepherd.

7628             MR. SHEPHERD:  If I had to pick one, I would prefer to offer the service, because, quite frankly, it is very difficult in the terminal world for people to acquire what could be a whole different range of handsets and for us to configure and support them.

7629             Typically, when customers buy equipment that we aren't familiar with and expect us to make it work, it is not usually a great experience for them.

7630             My preference, depending on the economics and the other issues, of course, is that we could supply the handset and the service, and have something that we could stand behind.

7631             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  I do need to get off this issue, but I want to go back to something you have been saying over and over.  You say, "depending on economics".


7632             As a corporation with a social responsibility, as well as an economic responsibility, this is a group of consumers which, while perhaps not economically ‑‑ you know, not going to top a business plan, still requires service.

7633             When you are looking at issues such as bringing this in, are you balancing those considerations as well?

7634             MR. SHEPHERD:  Yes, I would say so.

7635             When I use the term "economics", I am not suggesting that it has to meet the same hurdle rates and margins and profitability that we might expect from a different service, I am simply suggesting that it has to meet some threshold that is affordable.

7636             Certainly, that could include even some view that we provide it at a loss.  You know, we are not even suggesting ‑‑ I am not suggesting that it would necessarily have to break even or be at cost, but, clearly, it's the sum magnitude of that and how much ‑‑

7637             What the reasonable test for that is, it's more a matter of judgment.

7638             Clearly, many of the initiatives that we have taken don't have a payback.  They are taken because we view them, first, as something that is good business practice.  It's an obligation, we think, to try to service the needs of the community and our customers as best we can.  Clearly, there is not a black‑and‑white line on that.


7639             Back to the issue of handsets, it is not that we are applying a test that says, "Gee, this has to be the same payback and return as every other handset in our lineup," it is really more a question of ‑‑ from a cost/benefit point of view, does it meet a reasonable expectation that it is something that would be affordable and be worthwhile to undertake.

7640             Like many of the other initiatives that we take in this area, it is more a question of judgment than a hard number like a return rate.

7641             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  I hope it meets your test, whatever that test might be.

7642             I want to go back a little bit to the issue of message relay, but also related to the terminal, and get your perspective as it regards access to emergency services through SMS text messaging.

7643             We have heard some parties come forward and say it is important that they be able to have access to emergency services through SMS, and I believe they are talking through a relay system.  So not direct access to the PSAPs at this point, just being able to access your message relay operators through SMS.


7644             MR. SHEPHERD:  While I haven't followed all of the details, I did hear yesterday's discussion with Rogers, and I think I read a submission on the topic from earlier in the hearings.

7645             There seems to be some lack of clarity around exactly what this service would be, and the expectations around it.

7646             Certainly, I think anything that involves 911 does require some engagement of the PSAP operators.  Whether that is simply so they understand what a message relay operator would be trying to do in terms of relaying an SMS discussion, or whether that is them being able to take those types of messages themselves, there would have to be some consultation from a fairly broad range of stakeholders.

7647             There are, clearly, some serious technical limitations in terms of using SMS.  That is not to say that it might not be a worthwhile service, even with those limitations.

7648             In terms of trying to integrate it into, for example, our own MRS operation, we haven't looked at that.  We would be willing to look at it, but, as I said, I think it would require broader consultation with a range of stakeholders to understand how that would really ‑‑ the service that it would deliver, and, in fact, how PSAPs would respond to those types of discussions.


7649             Clearly, the limitations around SMS ‑‑ the fact that it's a very short service, it is not a real‑time service, it's not guaranteed, and having to have an MRS operator somehow translate that and relay it to a 911 operator, with really no location information to support the 911 operation, I think would be challenging.  I am not saying, though, that it couldn't be worked through, in terms of consultation and process, but it would be a very different service than 911.

7650             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  I think that's fair to say, but I was trying to understand, because message relay, as you noted, is now portable.  TTYs are now portable.  So if you could do it on a TTY ‑‑

7651             It's a point of access.  It's a 24/7 point of access for someone who perhaps is unable to speak.

7652             MR. SHEPHERD:  I think there are some substantial differences between MRS ‑‑ first, whether the MRS call is placed from a land line or a wireless telephone.

7653             There is some degree of information available through the ALI/ANI capability.


7654             When you send an SMS message, it has no location information, so you are relying totally on the person on the other end to be able to describe that.

7655             It also isn't real‑time, so it's not easily interactive, if you know what I mean.  It's not like the same degree of interaction.

7656             I agree with what you are saying, it is an extension ‑‑ a potential extension.  I understand some of the suggestion that there may be value, as long as the expectation around the capability is matched properly with what people would be seeking.

7657             It is not something we have looked at, but it certainly is an interesting idea.

7658             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  Okay.  Thank you for that.

7659             I want to move on to issues related to customer service and support.  You used deferral money to enhance your website.

7660             Is that correct?

7661             MR. SHEPHERD:  We haven't enhanced it yet.  We are in the process of enhancing it, and I am sure you will have more questions as we go forward, and we can talk in more detail about where we are at.


7662             I think, today, we have received ‑‑ I guess what I would call an evaluation of design proposal, which we plan to implement over the next nine months or a year.  We will implement those enhancements, and it will be done using the ‑‑ I think $400,000 to $500,000 of deferral account funding.

7663             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  So does that $400,000 to $500,000 provide you full W3C compliance?

7664             MR. SHEPHERD:  Well, I am going to take a crack at this and then Pat can hopefully bail me out here when I get in over my head.

7665             First of all, I have to admit I am not an expert on exactly what constitutes full compliance.  I have asked the question, what does full compliance mean, and what I have been told is that these are guidelines.  It is not ‑‑ and the best way they described it to me was to think of it as a grade A, grade AA, grade AAA.

7666             So you can have variations of compliance and I would say that our plan is not AAA.  It would be grade A.  It would be a good step.  I would describe it as a good initial step but I wouldn't pretend to say that there wouldn't be further work that could be done on it to improve it even more.

7667             Some of the ‑‑ maybe the best way to try to describe that is to describe some of the limitations or constraints around the improvements we are making.


7668             So first, it primarily is in our consumer area.  It wouldn't necessarily address all the website products and services but it would address the ones that we think have the most use and application to the broadest customer base initially.  Obviously, we are looking to achieve the maximum benefit for customers from that point of view.

7669             It also wouldn't fully address every element of the website, and by that, what we have done is we have looked at the traffic on the website and we are going to upgrade the highest volume, highest impact, most used, most viewed, if you want to call it, parts of the website that consumers access.

7670             There are some parts of our site, and I would describe our site ‑‑ if you have had a chance to look at it, it is not as sophisticated perhaps as some other providers' sites, primarily in that it is an informational site.  Most of the use of it is to present information.  It does have some self‑serve functionality ability for customers to manage their services through the website but that is quite limited.


7671             So to the extent that some of those self‑serve functions are more complex, I believe that some of those features may be difficult in this first stage, in the amount of funding we have identified, to fully make accessible or as compliant as we would like.

7672             So those are, you know, a way to describe it.  I think the step we are taking is a good step but I would describe it as a first step.  I certainly wouldn't describe it as everything a hundred percent on the site meeting the highest level of expectation that the standard or the W3C guidelines set out.

7673             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  Do you have any information or customer services ‑‑ you mentioned the self‑serve abilities ‑‑ where the only way to either access the service or the information is via the website?

7674             MR. SHEPHERD:  No.  We do have other alternative channels.

7675             Certainly, we have phone.  You can access information through the phone.  We also have a retail store channel, which in some areas probably has more complete information than the website because you can actually touch and feel the products and talk to a retail representative.

7676             So I would ‑‑

7677             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  So there is nothing that is only accessible via your website?


7678             MR. SHEPHERD:  No, I don't believe so.  I think anything that is on our website, we have alternative channels.  And even the self‑serve functionality, for example, the ability to go on and perhaps change your channel line‑up on your TV service can be done via phone, for example.

7679             I think the only thing, if I think about it in a little more detail, that might only be accessible, there are things that, by definition, have to be done on the web.  Like an ebill, for example, if you want to get your bill electronically, clearly, that is not going to be done by phone or through the store.

7680             But anything else in terms of product information, ordering, technical support or care is basically available through other channels.

7681             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  Okay, thank you.

7682             I would like to talk a little bit about alternative formats.

7683             Today there is, of course, the requirement to provide bills and certain specific information in alternative formats upon request.

7684             What would be the challenge if you were to have to provide all promotional material in alternative formats?


7685             MR. SHEPHERD:  Well, I think the challenge would be primarily one of the cost associated with trying to take every piece of promotional material and put it in that format.  So there is a conversion cost to do it and I think it is principally that.

7686             To the extent that it is available or already in that format, it is less of a challenge but most of the promotional material ‑‑ and this is everything from advertising to other types of product information ‑‑ you know, isn't readily available in those alternative formats.

7687             So you know, we would have to ‑‑ certainly, it would be, I think, a significant cost to try to convert all of that material and to maintain it and to make it available in those formats.

7688             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  Right.

7689             And you know, I am sorry I didn't put this into context for you but, for example, we had Mr. Stark here and they gave a story about receiving a Christmas gift from their wireless provider but when they went to open it, it was blank because it was in a format they couldn't see.  And, you know, their comment is it was a gift, it was a promotion for the sighted.


7690             And so, you know, as promotions and different offers are made available to your consumers, the question is how difficult would it be to ensure that that information is always available in alternate formats so, in fact, it is available to all consumers?

7691             MR. SHEPHERD:  I think it would be quite difficult.  I think it would be quite difficult in terms of the volume of material that is produced and the cost to do that alternative format.

7692             But I don't have any hard data at my hands that would allow me to give you a cost estimate.  But my initial reaction would be it would be ‑‑ that would be the challenge.

7693             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  Can you tell me if you provide accessible information on your mobile and wireless devices such as the user guides and so on in any alternative formats?

7694             MR. SHEPHERD:  I don't believe we do.

7695             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  I am going to move on to the issue of customer support.

7696             Could you tell me what training is provided to MTS, your customer service representatives, to ensure that they fully understand the products and services and information that is available to persons with disabilities?


7697             MS SOLMAN:  Well, what we have in the call centre is we actually have a special needs customer care expert and she only deals with special needs customers, and published in the White Pages and on our website is her phone number.

7698             And so when reps ‑‑ when we get calls into the call centre, the average rep doesn't deal with those calls.  They are not trained on the actual specific equipment but the calls then are routed to the special needs rep who, in fact, manages those calls and knows those products.

7699             And she doesn't deal with regular customers.  She just deals with the ones that have the special needs and that is her specialty.

7700             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  So is this customers who self‑identify?

7701             MS SOLMAN:  They would be customers who would self‑identify, yes.  So if they called in and said, you know, I want some information on some of the TTY equipment or how it works or what products do you have available, they then would be directed to ‑‑ well, her name is Lola ‑‑ to our special needs representative.

7702             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  Do you know how many customers you have in MTS who have self‑identified with disabilities?


7703             MS SOLMAN:  Well, she handles roughly 15 to 20 calls a day on inquiries, okay, but I don't know that number in the market as a whole.

7704             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  Okay.  Just following up on that, what is the process?  I expect MTS has an IVR.

7705             MS SOLMAN:  Yes.

7706             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  what is the process for a customer to access Lola?

7707             MS SOLMAN:  Well, she does have a direct line which is, in fact, published, as I said, in the phone book but they would have to navigate, and we all know IVRs aren't easy for special needs people, let alone the average individual.  They provide challenges, and the customer would just have to navigate the IVR like any other customer.

7708             Now, obviously there is that press zero and speak to an operator and then the operator would guide the call accordingly.  So they technically don't have to navigate, they could just press the zero, but they still have to self‑identify.

7709             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  Fair enough.

7710             If you are a person with a disability, be it agility or otherwise, you just keep pressing zero and you are going to get a live person?

7711             MS SOLMAN:  Zero will get you to a live person, yes.


7712             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  Just once?

7713             MS SOLMAN:  Just once.

7714             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  Okay, thanks.

7715             I am going to move to the issues of broadcasting now.

7716             We heard earlier this week from Mr. Eadie that he is very, very pleased with the broadcasting of described video that is done by MTS.  So I hadn't been aware up to that point in reading your information that, in fact, you were passing it through already.

7717             But you are passing through the described video today?

7718             MR. SHEPHERD:  We are.  I believe we still may have a small number of channels that we are working to enable described video on and we expect to have that work done as part of a major upgrade to the equipment we were doing this fall.

7719             But we have been providing the majority of channels with described video and the few that we have had some technical issues on, we have been addressing and I think certainly by the end of the year we expect that that work will be completed.

7720             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  Great!  And it is embedded?


7721             MR. SHEPHERD:  Yes.

7722             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  Yes.

7723             We have heard about the six‑step process to actually access the described video feed.

7724             What is the process with your service?

7725             MR. SHEPHERD:  It is quite similar.  I have to admit I haven't tried this myself but ‑‑

7726             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  You don't actually have to explain the process ‑‑

7727             MR. SHEPHERD:  Yes, but it is ‑‑

7728             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  ‑‑ but you could tell us if it is five, six or seven steps to get there.

7729             MR. SHEPHERD:  Well, that is what I was looking for.  I thought, gee, maybe ours is only five but I think it may be six.

7730             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  Six.

7731             MR. SHEPHERD:  But it is a very similar process.  You do have to take a number of actions, both on the TV and on the set‑top, essentially, to enable the service.

7732             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  Mm‑hmm.


7733             We have been asking as to what, if anything, your company is doing to try and make that easier for customers.

7734             Yesterday, Rogers was here and they showed us a remote that makes it a push of the button to get there.

7735             Do you have any plans in place?  Are you working with your vendors' middleware or set‑top box or otherwise to work through this issue to make it simpler for your customers?

7736             MR. SHEPHERD:  Yes, I heard the discussion on the remote with some interest.  I don't believe we have any initiative today like that.  It certainly sounded like an interesting thing to explore.

7737             Generally, what we have done is tried to address it through support to the customer.  I mean that support could be support by phone consultation.  I believe in some cases we will send a technician to the home to help train, guide people.

7738             But I don't believe we have an initiative similar to what Rogers has described to try to kind of automate it through a remote control.


7739             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  Yes.  Let me ‑‑ yes.  It is a bit troubling.  I mean Mr. Eadie, who likes your service, watches it in a separate room because once you get it programmed, it is difficult.  And you probably are not sending your CST out there every time he wants to change the channel.

7740             So there's a couple of options we have explored with people.  I mean one is coming up with a simpler solution.  I don't remember exactly what your existing service remote is but I am thinking there is probably a VOD button.

7741             MR. SHEPHERD:  There is a VOD button.

7742             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  So could there be a described video button?

7743             MR. SHEPHERD:  As I said, I heard with some interest ‑‑ I haven't had a discussion with the technical people.  I heard with some interest the discussion from Rogers yesterday.  I don't know exactly what they have done but ‑‑ and I haven't talked to our technical people to see if something similar would be done.

7744             My impression is that it is kind of like a programmable remote control where these steps can be programmed in as a macro.

7745             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  Right.

7746             MR. SHEPHERD:  Off the top of my head, it sounded like it might be an interesting solution.  So I will take that back ‑‑

7747             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  Right.


7748             MR. SHEPHERD:  ‑‑ and talk to people about it but I can't say that we have looked at it and I know if it is possible or not.

7749             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  So let me throw at you an alternative, and this is something that SaskTel discussed and made some commitment to.

7750             If there is not an easier way to access the described video than a six‑step process, if there is not a simple one‑step process, what are your thoughts on providing at least the over‑the‑air channels on an open format or at least providing them on an open format until such time as there is a one‑step process to access?

7751             MR. SHEPHERD:  Just for clarification, by open format, it would be like a parallel separate channel ‑‑

7752             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  Separate channel.

7753             MR. SHEPHERD:  ‑‑ that was fully enabled that way?

7754             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  Right.

7755             MR. SHEPHERD:  I guess my thoughts are I am not sure that we have explored that.


7756             I think we do have ‑‑ my initial reaction would be we have channel limitations, I know, in our current service in terms of the numbers of discrete channels that we can carry.  So I know there would be some technical capacity limitations around that.

7757             So I would have to look at the specifics of how many channels and what would be involved but I know there would be some limitations and particularly in our existing service because even when we go to add new channels, there are some issues we have with the current system around how many of those we can continue to grow, how big the line‑up can become.

7758             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  Is that right?

7759             MR. SHEPHERD:  Yes.

7760             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  I just want to be clear, and I am not going to go on forever, but I do want to be clear.

7761             Do you have capacity issues or do you have cost issues?  Because I am a bit confused that there would be capacity issues with your system in running these on a separate source.


7762             MR. SHEPHERD:  Yes.  No, there are actually capacity issues due to ‑‑ I hate to even use the word "capacity issues" but let's just say there is a limited amount of channel capacity that we can carry and it is due to the particular design of the technology we have used.

7763             And I guess the best way to describe it, Commissioner, is if you think about the way our system works is you carry say 200 or 250 or 300 channels kind of in a big loop around the city on a fibre optic kind of backbone and then you have to connect those into nodes.  And the switching of the video out to individual customers happens at the nodes.

7764             The interconnection into those nodes has got a limited amount of bandwidth, and so, you know, between your linear channels and video‑on‑demand and pay‑per‑view, and all of that traffic basically goes through a certain number of ports on the equipment and that does limit the total number of channels that can be carried into a node.

7765             It is partly because it is an ATM technology in that part of the backbone.

7766             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  Okay.

7767             MR. SHEPHERD:  It is different.

7768             We are implementing a next generation IPTV service that we expect to roll out beginning in 2009.  I expect it wouldn't have those same limitations but the current technology does have some specific limitations that are different than, say, SaskTel's network, significantly different.


7769             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  Okay.  Just a real quick answer.

7770             Your capacity limitation, do you have a number?  Like how many ‑‑ what is the number of channels?  What is the limit?  And if it isn't a number, just tell me that.

7771             MR. SHEPHERD:  It isn't a number.

7772             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  It is not a number?

7773             MR. SHEPHERD:  It isn't a number.  It is basically a calculation because you really have to ‑‑

7774             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  Okay.  That is okay then, thanks.

7775             MR. SHEPHERD:  You have to determine the number of simultaneous video‑on‑demand streams to figure out ‑‑ there is a trade‑off there between how much video‑on‑demand and how much linear capacity you use.

7776             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  Okay.  But the number of channels you carry today would be in the range of 200?

7777             MR. SHEPHERD:  I think it is probably 250 if you look at audio and other channels, yes.

7778             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  Okay.  Okay.


7779             Can we talk just for a minute about your electronic programming guide.

7780             There have been some discussions around the feasibility of providing an audio programming guide or audio cues on your programming guide.  Is that something that has been examined?

7781             MR. SHEPHERD:  On our current technology, I can ‑‑ I am going to split it into two discussions.

7782             Our current technology, which was, you know, first deployed in 2003 and it is currently what we are offering on the market, the interactive program guide is an integrated piece of software that is supplied by the technology vendor.

7783             That particular program guide has been ‑‑ is not being further enhanced or developed by the vendor, and so we have had extensive discussions around a number of things we would like to do with the program guide that really just aren't feasible because the vendor has essentially capped development of that particular guide.


7784             We are in the process of deploying a next generation TV service that is based upon the Microsoft Mediaroom platform, and certainly, with that product I would expect there's more opportunities down the road and we would expect to see more developments in the program guide.

7785             I don't know what Microsoft's plans are around these types of questions around audio prompts or other changes that might be incorporated into the guide.  From what I have seen in their development road map, I haven't seen that on their development road map.

7786             So I think going forward, given that they are building that product for very large companies such as AT&T in the U.S. and 40 or 50 companies around the world, there could be opportunities certainly to talk to them about those types of things but it is not on their current road map in the next year or two that I have seen.

7787             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  Okay.

7788             And on the basis that it's Microsoft, I'm assuming that MTS is not laying out requirements.

7789             MR. SHEPHERD:  Yes, they are not too receptive to that.

‑‑‑ Laughter / Rires


7790             MR. SHEPHERD:  We are taking their product and putting some I guess what I would call configuration around it, which basically lets us put our name and a different colour scheme and a few elements like that, but certainly not a sophisticated type of capability like has been discussed on audio guide.

7791             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  Yes.

7792             I want to move just very quickly to the issue of closed captioning.

7793             The CAB has spoke as it regards quality of closed captioning and, in ensuring quality is there and monitoring quality and so on, that there's a role there for BDUs to play, as well.

7794             Do you have any comments on that?

7795             MR. SHEPHERD:  I'm not familiar with exactly the comments they have made.  I would have to look at them and...unless, Teresa, you have some review of them.

7796             I would have to take that away and review it and provide you some comments back, Commissioner.

7797             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  Okay.  Yes, you can do that.


7798             Finally, I want to talk to you about consultations.  There has been a lot of discussion at this hearing from the groups representing the disabilities that a really important and lacking element today is consultation, ongoing consultation with the stakeholder groups, so I would like you views on a couple of things.

7799             One is a specific proposal that was put forward by the Canadian Institute for the Blind that there be an institute established with members of the CRTC, industry and the stakeholders, funding not yet determined.  So I would like your views as it regards what benefits you think might come from such an institute and how you would view such an institute could be funded.

7800             MR. SHEPHERD:  Well, I will make some general comments.  I think we commented on this a little bit in our submission.

7801             I believe we could see a potential role for such an organization.  It may not address every issue, but I would say that there could be some opportunity for it to play a role and for it to be useful in certain situations.

7802             Funding?  I'm not sure that we have put a position forward on funding.

7803             I don't know, Teresa, if you have any comment on how we would see that.


7804             I think what we have suggested is that these types of ongoing initiatives that need to be sustained probably need a sustainable and supported source of funding.  It shouldn't be a one‑time kind of fund that is established to try to undertake those types of initiatives.

7805             MS GRIFFIN‑MUIR:  I guess, too, though, we would feel not dissimilar to Rogers in kind of having the consultation process, whatever that may be, have specific goals.

7806             Even coming out of consultations for the deferral account use, not every group has ‑‑ well, "the" issues are quite individual in a certain way.  So there is certain value in implementation, for example, post some sort of understanding of what is the best approach, what would have the broadest positive impact for people with accessibility issues.

7807             So part of that would involve some sort of understanding, either through a process like this, but even through this process we can see there's a number of different alternative proposals, and then have consultation as to how to implement, the best way to implement.


7808             So, for us, we looked at it much more like CISC, so we would already have a direction, and whatever that direction was, as an example, video relay service or IP, how the industry would actually put it in place where it would serve the needs of the community that we are trying assist with this service and where the practical aspects of it, from an implementation perspective, for the carriers could be accommodated so that you make sure we are not putting something in place, as carriers, that wouldn't really be helpful to the people we are trying to serve, but that there is some balance between the two.

7809             Broad consultation is a little more difficult.  Just it's been our experience that there are really diverse needs and there's not even agreement amongst all the groups representing individuals with those needs as to what the ideal solution is.  So there would have to be some sort of structure around that.

7810             Then, I guess, the funding mechanism would work not dissimilarly to how we fund a lot of participation today, which is the industry funding, but we would say what Kelvin is saying, it really does have to be put together.  If this is something that's ongoing, the mechanism for funding it also has to be ongoing.

7811             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  By industry.

7812             MS GRIFFIN‑MUIR:  Depending on how it's structured.

7813             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  Okay, thank you very much.  Those were my questions.


7814             THE CHAIRPERSON:  Thank you, Commissioner Molnar.

7815             I have got a few questions and I'm sure some of the other members of the panel have them, as well.  I want to take you back to your opening comments this morning, and I will put a context around it.

7816             We have heard from a number of participants this week that the only way for social improvements to happen is through Commission decision, as opposed to voluntarily, I guess.  I look at your paragraph 2, in your opening statement, and the last sentence, and I will ready it out:

"Some issues faced by these customers..."

7817             ‑‑ and we are talking about customers with some difficulties ‑‑

"...have been alleviated by initiatives, such as introduction of Manitoba relay service, closed captioning and described video services, that were undertaken as a consequence of previous Commission decisions."  (As read)


7818             Do you recall any social initiatives that MTS has undertaken under its own initiative?

7819             MR. SHEPHERD:  Oh, absolutely.  But I guess "social initiatives" has got a very broad context to it.

7820             I mean, corporately, if I go back in our history, we have extended service in a number of areas which potentially was done for broader policy or obligations than simply a profit motive.

7821             In our current environment, we have significant amount of employee and corporate involvement in communities, whether that's volunteer activities, contribution activities, other things.

7822             From a service point of view, you know, I think many of our service policies are intended to try to accommodate customers' needs to the extent possible.  They aren't laid down in regulation or decision that's a requirement, but, clearly, we do try to do that.


7823             So I wouldn't agree with the view that no progress can be made without regulation.  I think just the fact that these hearings are raising issues, and certainly some of the discussion I have heard over the last day or two generates new knowledge and new opportunities that, you know, people can take back and may result, and probably could result, in improvements.

7824             There are areas where, such as VRS, for example, I don't think that is going to be undertaken, personally, by an individual company like MTS on a voluntary basis because of the nature of the service and the requirement of such a broad consensus on how to do it.  And there probably is a role, through some kind of process, to assist the stakeholders in reaching a conclusion on that, but there's many other areas that...

7825             THE CHAIRPERSON:  Clearly, national programs need some national oversight ‑‑

7826             MR. SHEPHERD:  Yes.

7827             THE CHAIRPERSON:  ‑‑ I don't dispute that at all, but I guess I was trying to narrow it down to the issues that, I guess, were brought before us this week.

7828             The people that are here before us are people with disabilities. I'm just trying to look out to all the parties and sort of say:  they are telling us that without our involvement these types of initiatives don't happen, even the smallest things, like bringing in phones to meet their particular needs.


7829             This proceeding is one example that actually highlights the fact that there needs to be a funnel for information, at a minimum, because a lot of stuff it out there, it's just not being disseminated or put in the place where it's readily available and marketable to these people.

7830             And I think I mentioned earlier this week ‑‑ and you are in marketing, as well ‑‑ I mean, a huge success is find a need in fill it and if you don't market, you are not going to sell it; if you don't sell it, you are not going to bring it in; if you don't bring it in, no one knows it exists or doesn't exist and, therefore, you are back to square one again.

7831             And a lot of the parties here, not just MTS ‑‑ and I commend you for coming in with some initiatives, as well, but in the absence of this proceeding, it begs the question:  would an awful lot of these parties that are coming before us have initiated these things on their own or does it take some sort of body, some sort of oversight, in order to focus attention to these types of initiatives?


7832             MR. SHEPHERD:  I can't speak for all the other parties.  I would say certainly proceedings such as this are useful.  I think, like, I would hope, most companies, though, we do listen to our customers, we do review complaints, we do review feedback and we try to find ways to address that.

7833             To the extent we could be more successful in that, there's room for improvement, I would agree, because I would be the first to suggest that we aren't satisfying every customers' requirement in these particular areas.

7834             But does that require regulation to make progress?  No.  I think there's a role for regulation; there's a role for the Commission.  But as a service provider, we have undertaken initiatives and will continue to do that on a voluntary basis, working with the community and with the customers that we are trying to serve.

7835             THE CHAIRPERSON:  Okay.

7836             I may have misheard your response to the question about charging for MRS services.  Does MTS charge the wireless customers for MTS wireless services?

7837             MR. SHEPHERD:  I don't believe we have a specific line item that appears on a wireless customer's bill.  That's different than for a wireline customer, where there is a specific line item that includes the MRS charge.

7838             THE CHAIRPERSON:  Okay.  Not to beat a dead horse, but...


7839             MR. SHEPHERD:  Maybe it's not dead.

‑‑‑ Laughter / Rires

7840             THE CHAIRPERSON:  ...are there no ‑‑ first of all, let me go back one step.

7841             I respect the fact that minimum orders sometimes are difficult to achieve ‑‑ and I have been on the other side, I have been on your side, as well ‑‑ but are there no carriers in North America anywhere that have software loads that are compatible to your software load ‑‑ I won't say the same software load because I understand they are not, but compatible to your software load ‑‑ where a product that's marketed in, I don't, San Antonio, Texas, on a CDMA network cannot readily work on your network?

7842             I mean, I'm sure you guys get together every six months and talk about network developments and topography and new loads coming out and new software, where you can sort of say, Hey, you guys sell one of these products, because we have heard they are being marketed in the U.S.


7843             And I will add to the question.  You are subsidizing handsets today.  I mean, no one's asking you to buy 5,000 at a huge price and give them away, but certainly you can get them from an affiliated company in the U.S. at some price.  And maybe you might have to subsidize it to some extent, but packaging it in and making it available to people who have a need and there's a market there would make some sense.

7844             MR. SHEPHERD:  Well, I don't want to get into a detailed discussion of the issues associated with handset procurement, which have been occupying a fair amount of my time over the last year.

7845             Historically, Commissioner, we acquired handsets through an arrangement with Bell and, you know, so to some extent we were ‑‑ even in that arrangement there was a unique software load, you know, that was customized from the Bell handset, but we worked jointly with them.

7846             Now, we have had a slight parting of the ways with Bell, and so over the last number of months it's become even more clear to me how difficult it is to work with some of these handset vendors.  So most of them do not allow you to take handsets from the U.S., they have to be sourced through a Canadian distributor.  They have pretty strick minimum volume requirements.  And, you know, when you look at some of the CDMA players in the U.S., we have had discussions, it's proven very difficult to find ways to get economies of scale.


7847             But I understand the view that there are devices out there.  It's really a question of trying to find the right way to source them and to make them compatible and make them work.  It's not a technical impossibility, it's really more a question of the commercial arrangements, and the costs associated with it.

7848             THE CHAIRPERSON:  Okay.  This is probably a legal question, and maybe you can't answer it today, but you can in the future.

7849             You said you have some contractual obligations that would not allow you the flexibility, that perhaps one of the suggestions I have made could happen.

7850             Can you elaborate, now or in the future, as to whether a CRTC direction to you to, I won't say break a contractual term, but a direction to you to execute, where there is not a part readily available in Canada, notwithstanding something that's written in a contract, would allow you to source directly for this particular purpose?

7851             MR. SHEPHERD:  Let me clarify the comment, because perhaps I haven't been clear in describing it.


7852             It isn't a contractual obligation that we have entered into.  I will give you an example without getting into the names of the parties involved.

7853             For example, we had quite extensive discussions with a U.S.‑based provider, a distributor.  Basically, their business is to acquire large numbers of handsets, a volume purchase from a vendor, from a handset supplier, configure them for individual carriers who are smaller, and then redistribute them.  That, you know, means you can take a 30,000 volume requirement and 15 smaller carriers who will want 1,000 each, for example, can then acquire smaller unit quantities.

7854             We had quite extensive discussions and were quite optimistic.  At the end, the handset vendors have incorporated restrictions that do not allow those distributors to redistribute those handsets into Canada.  So it's not our contract, it's the contract that the supply chain, the vendors, have entered into with their various distributors that really do restrict redistribution.


7855             Now, that's not every vendor.  We have managed to find some handsets and some vendors that will allow redistribution and allow you to participate in a large volume buy, for example, where a larger number of U.S. carriers can then buy smaller quantities.  But there is some difficult commercial arrangements there that handset manufacturers are using to manage their own distribution channel, and I presume they have their own commercial reasons to do that.

7856             THE CHAIRPERSON:  Yes.

7857             My last question.  In CRTC 10th June 08‑103 ‑‑ and you talked a bit about this with Commissioner Molnar ‑‑ on page 103, you talk about some limitations on your software, and I think I heard you say that ‑‑ for digital video we are talking about now, I apologize, and you indicated that you expect some changes to happen in the fourth quarter.  And in your response here you said:

"...by the end of 2008 to resolve these capacity and technical issues, making described video more consistently available."  (As read)

7858             Is that still on track and on schedule?

7859             MR. SHEPHERD:  Yes, I believe it is.

7860             THE CHAIRPERSON:  Okay.


7861             The only other question I have, and it was, again, in regard to Commissioner Molnar's comment about the number of channels that you have and the fact that you may or may not have capacity constraints.

7862             Can you tell us how many of your channels are VOD channels?

7863             MR. SHEPHERD:  I'm going to just rephrase the question back to make sure I understand it, Commissioner.

7864             So if you look at our TV service, we would have linear channels, 200, 250 linear channels.  And then video‑on‑demand channels, if you want to call it that, or dynamic.  If you have a thousand customers accessing video at the same time, then you have a thousand channels, but you are asking ‑‑

7865             THE CHAIRPERSON:  Let me correct myself, video‑on‑demand and pay‑per‑view channels.

7866             MR. SHEPHERD:  Yes.  Well, pay per view is basically the equivalent of a linear channel.  In other words, if you have four pay‑per‑view channels or two pay‑per‑view channels, essentially, they are occupying two channels that would be equivalent to a linear channel.


7867             Video on demand is different, in that, basically, because of the nature of video on demand, when a customer accesses a video‑on‑demand service, they have their own dedicated video channel through the network back to the video‑on‑demand server, because they can pause, they can stop it, they can control it individually.  So it's really more of a traffic engineering example.

7868             And I can follow up with more specific information, but, for example, if you have a total channel capacity of, say, 400 channels, and you allocate 250 to linear, that leaves 150 that can be accessed simultaneously by 150 users.  So it becomes a statistical traffic engineering...how many customers, what the penetration usage of video on demand is.  And that then gets limited.  You know, you have to decide how many of those channels you are going to set aside to handle that traffic.

7869             THE CHAIRPERSON:  If you had to set aside a certain number for described video in an open format, you would have that many fewer for your pay‑per‑video VOD customers?

7870             MR. SHEPHERD:  That's right, you would have that many fewer for linear or video on demand.  It would constrain the service level that you would be able to provide to those video‑on‑demand customers.

7871             THE CHAIRPERSON:  Right.


7872             MR. SHEPHERD:  So, as I was saying, it's really more of a traffic engineering calculation.

7873             And it changes over time.  Because we fully expect, as we deploy our next‑generation service, that there will be some migration from the existing platform, and then that probably will, ultimately, free up some capacity in that older technology.  As, you know, you have a smaller subscriber base, you have fewer potential video‑on‑demand subscribers.  It probably acts to free up capacity as your subscriber base migrates to newer technology.

7874             THE CHAIRPERSON:  Okay.

7875             I see it's 10:35.  I am sure that everybody...there are questions along here.

7876             So why don't we take a break until 10:45, and we will resume with other commissioners' questions.

7877             Thank you.

‑‑‑ Upon recessing at 1035 / Suspension à 1035

‑‑‑ Upon resuming at 1050 / Reprise à 1050

7878             THE CHAIRPERSON:  Order, please.  We will continue with Commissioner Simpson.

7879             COMMISSIONER SIMPSON:  Thank you very much.

7880             I would like to go first into talking about the equipment side of things.


7881             One of the things I have been coming to understand very clearly is that there is a new Golden Mile link problem in the telephony business with respect to the devices and the lack of standards with devices and the complications of, as you say, how you acquire your gear and also the matter of really not understanding or having a handle on whether there is a business case to look into this further.

7882             You know, we all understand that the bottom line has to be attained.

7883             What I would like to go back to again is if you are in a transition right now out of a supply line arrangement with Bell with respect to technology, what stage are you at with respect to how you are going to be sourcing your telephony equipment in the future?

7884             MR. SHEPHERD:  The transition discussions or transition I talked about with Bell is particular to wireless handsets.  I believe today we have over half of our handsets that are sourced separately, and we are slowly phasing out or drawing down the arrangement we had with Bell as stocks deplete and those sorts of arrangements.


7885             So generally what we have had to do is go directly to manufacturers and enter into our own commercial arrangements.  The biggest impact of that in terms of from a business impact is of course scale.  We are a smaller buyer and so it is more difficult for us to strike the types of arrangements.

7886             They range all the way from ‑‑ you know, probably the most famous one is, you know, it is a technology issue to some extent, but the iPhone.  Even if we had compatible technology with the iPhone, I can tell you we would never be able to do a deal with them because of the minimums and the exclusivity arrangements and the other types of things.

7887             Many handsets we can't acquire early on in their life cycle because really they are looking at very large players who make big, exclusive commitments.

7888             But having said that, we have relationships with a number of key handset vendors and we are, you know, procuring handsets from those different vendors under different arrangements than we did previously.

7889             COMMISSIONER SIMPSON:  Thank you for that.


7890             When Mr. Stark and his family were here earlier in the week he, in only a way that Mr. Stark as a person with sight disabilities could do, attempted to look us straight in the eye and he said I hope the CRTC hits a home run with this hearing.

7891             I have to be honest with you, I feel like I am playing T‑ball this week because we are hearing consistently that there is an economy of scale issue.  For the most part, there has not been a lack of willingness but a lack of way.

7892             I am coming to the point where beyond the big decision, determinations that we can make that may or may not involve regulatory determinations, I am at the point now where I am so frustrated that I am trying to find any kind of small takeaways that can help me feel better about what I am hearing, to be honest with you.

7893             Yesterday I challenged Rogers to take it upon themselves in the course of their commitment to their website rebuild ‑‑ they have a fairly compliant website right now to the new W3C standards, but they are trying to get into a position where their reach will exceed their grasp and go into even more features that service the disability communities.


7894             I asked them if in the course of doing their business if it is even possible to try to work with competitors, suppliers, industry, government to try and work toward at least a repository of current information on what is available in this world for the community to at least be a better starting point.

7895             You know, I would ask the same of you.

7896             But I am going to ask it with a few pluses, if you don't mind.

7897             My sensation is not unlike our discussions with SaskTel earlier this week.  There was a certain resignation to size issues.  You know, we are just not capable, and I understand that.

7898             But I would also put to you, though, that as small as you may be in your world of telephony, you are still a heck of a lot larger than any representative disability group, and they look to you.  Particularly when you have the leadership role that you do in your territory as a supplier, they look to you.

7899             I ask you to try and sort of sharpen your senses a bit with respect to the relationship that your customer has with you, because what is interesting is as you start having your abilities limited, other senses that you are left with become heightened.


7900             I think that the issue of the relationship you have as a person with disabilities to your telephone supplier, your cable company is very tactile.  You know, it is literally what you are holding in your hand.  Whether it is a remote controller that has a single button feature or a telephone that has, you know, assistive devices that have been designed to try and mitigate some of the problems you are dealing with, it is that real.

7901             It is a hard thing to take that into a business plan, to take that into a compelling case.

7902             I think, to go back to my first point of adding a few pluses, if you are in the midst of new negotiations with suppliers, put the disability issues on the radar.  Put a spec list together and ask those questions in addition to all the network compliance issues and the roaming abilities, and so on.

7903             It is a small thing to ask.  It's a cheap fix because it involves just moving ‑‑ it is an attitude shift rather than something that has a high mechanical cost.

7904             The next thing I was going to ‑‑ and thank you for that.  I saw you nodding so I'm taking that as a yes.

7905             MR. SHEPHERD:  Yes, I think it is a good point.


7906             I mean obviously the process of design and procurement has evolved.  I started out as an engineer writing these specs in 1981, and I can guarantee you the spec I wrote in 1981 probably would be different, quite a bit different than the spec today.

7907             So I think your suggestion that we put these issues up and understand, you know, compliancy with them as we would understand any other kind of technical compliancy or business compliancy is a reasonable request.

7908             COMMISSIONER SIMPSON:  Great.  I'm glad we agree on that.

7909             I'm going to give you some more information as to why I think this is something that you are going to want to do rather than have to do, because legislation is wonderful, but it is nicer to know why you are doing something rather than just knowing you have to.

7910             We have been looking at some data in preparation for this hearing, and I'm going to be a little bit all over the map but I will try to be as succinct as possible, which a lot of my fellow Commissioners know is usually a stretch.


7911             We have come to understand just within the hearing disabled community through organizations in the United States who seem to be in possession of some hard data, the American Speech and Hearing Association ‑‑ that is not the exact name of the Association but I can draw you to their information later.

7912             They are saying somewhere around eight to 9 per cent of Americans are suffering some form of hearing disability, and that represents an order of magnitude of a population base of somewhere around 28 million Americans.  There are 301 million right now, according to the 2007 senses.

7913             That is a pretty good whack of customers.  To further sort of parse it down, about 5 per cent have profound hearing loss, so just do the math on that.

7914             Let's swing those numbers over to Manitoba know.  Manitoba is sitting with about 1.2 million, I think, 2007 senses data.  And we have been told by our learned staff, who we have come to love because they always give us the kind of stuff that makes us sound smart.  Right now the estimate is that about 14 per cent of the population in Canada have some form of disability.  That is on the widest possible definition of the term.

7915             If you were to transpose that number to Manitoba population, you are looking at about 168,000 people with some form of disability.


7916             If you wanted to get into the hearing loss customers, which might be of greater interest to a telephone company, you are looking at about 96,000 people by my math.  That's a heck of a lot of cell phones or a heck of a lot of devices.

7917             I'm just saying that that is within the widest range of hearing loss, not those who are severely disabled.

7918             If that isn't enough to try to build a business case around, the other piece of information the staff has been giving us is the part that I don't like to hear, which is that us boomers are falling apart and by the time we are 65 about 43 per cent of us are going to have some form of disability.

7919             That is 516,000 people in Manitoba who are going to be having trouble with their remote controls on their TV and they are having trouble with reading the numbers on their BlackBerrys and are going to be looking for devices to prolong their ‑‑ what I like to call our relevance.


7920             The closing part of this is that the term disability is an extremely wide category, and I think that is one of the reasons why, as you said in your presentation, it has been so darn difficult to really nail it down because that is not job one within your organization.  But from what I am seeing in these figures, it should start to be at least job two or three because those numbers are growing and the range of disability issues are going to become more prevalent.

7921             As I asked our friends at SaskTel, if you are that small and you are that handicapped in your own way by the issues of balance sheet, find ways, find sourcing ways.

7922             Supply chain management is something we all learned in school, and I think that that request of putting the issue of disability on your radar with respect to handset acquisition is something that is going to become a more compelling argument as we go down the road.

7923             Thank you.

7924             MR. SHEPHERD:  Thank you.

7925             THE CHAIRPERSON:  Thank you, Commissioner Simpson.

7926             Commissioner Lamarre...?

7927             COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  Merci, Monsieur le Président.

7928             I'm going to start asking you a question that has already been asked twice but, I apologize, I still don't understand what the answer is.


7929             Talking about descriptive video, you have mentioned that you still have some channels which there is a technical issue.  In an answer to Commissioner Molnar, you said it should be fixed by the end of the year.  In answering Commissioner Katz, you said you believe it is going to be fixed by the end of the year.

7930             Could I have a firm date, please?

7931             MR. SHEPHERD:  It is scheduled and currently on track to be finished by the end of the year.

7932             COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  Thank you.

7933             Moving to a totally ‑‑ well, not totally, it's still a little bit related topic.

7934             In your submission of July 10th, which was in response to interrogs by the Commission, on page 3 you had a table listing the list of complaints.

7935             First of all, thank you for providing it in that format.  As far as I am concerned, it was quite comprehensive set up this way.


7936             One of the complaints referred to on page 3 was filed in 2007 with the Canadian Human Rights Commission regarding difficulty of a visually impaired person ‑‑ obviously one of your clients ‑‑ in using the EPG, the Electronic Program Guide, on the MTS Allstream BDU.

7937             Could you comment on the outcome of this process and what you have and what we might learn from this?

7938             MS GRIFFIN‑MUIR:  I'm sorry, can you just redirect me?

7939             So we are in 100.  I'm just asking which ‑‑

7940             COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  Yes, page 3 of your July 10.

7941             MS GRIFFIN‑MUIR:  Right.

7942             COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  At the bottom of the page.

7943             MS GRIFFIN‑MUIR:  Right.  The complaint that ‑‑

7944             COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  That was filed, not with you but with the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

7945             MS GRIFFIN‑MUIR:  Yes.  So was it resolved to his satisfaction?

7946             COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  Well, I want to know if it was resolved.  What is the outcome of the process and what we could all learn from this.


7947             MS GRIFFIN‑MUIR:  Okay.  Actually the process has yet to have an outcome.  At the time we said to the Canadian Human Rights Commission that we were appearing here to discuss the issue, so they are going to proceed.

7948             Now the individual involved also has appeared here and so we ‑‑ he is happy with our descriptive video but for ‑‑

7949             COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  The EPG.

7950             MS GRIFFIN‑MUIR:  Right.

7951             COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  Okay.  So basically you are telling me that the Canadian Human Rights Commission has put the process on hold to see what is happening at these hearings?

7952             MS GRIFFIN‑MUIR:  Right.  I think they will resurrect it.

7953             COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  Okay.

7954             THE CHAIRPERSON:  Have they formally put it on hold?  Is there something in writing that says they are postponing the consideration until after the completion of this proceeding?

7955             MS GRIFFIN‑MUIR:  Actually they have just ‑‑ on the day that the individual appeared ‑‑ said they would now proceed because they did not think the individual would be able to appear here.

7956             But there is no decision; there is no proceeding per se.


7957             THE CHAIRPERSON:  But it is not stayed pending our decision.  It is going ahead?

7958             MS GRIFFIN‑MUIR:  No, no, no.  It separate.

7959             COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  Okay.  And it is still pending, that's what you are telling us?

7960             MS GRIFFIN‑MUIR:  Yes.

7961             COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  It is still pending in front of the Human Rights Commission.

7962             MS GRIFFIN‑MUIR:  Yes.

7963             COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  Okay.

7964             I have to go back to the wireless handset issues.

7965             I understand the discussion you just had with Commissioner Simpson about procurements.  That, as far as I am concerned, are short‑term solutions.  Like right now we are in a position where we have difficulty finding those handsets.  So in your future, but yet near procurement contracts or deliberations you are going to take that into consideration.


7966             What I would like to know is if MTS Allstream is involved, and if so to what extent, with any lobbying or standardization groups to influence in the long term development of handsets to suit the needs of Canadian disabled people?

7967             MR. SHEPHERD:  I stand to be corrected, but I don't believe we are involved with groups that lobby specifically on that issue.

7968             We are a member of CWTA, and CWTA I believe would be the industry association, the broad industry association in Canada that represents the wireless industry.  That would be the main lobbying group we would formally participate in.

7969             I have to say I am not certain if they have specific initiatives around this particular issue.

7970             Most of the rest of the efforts we would be involved in generally would be directly with manufacturers to try to ensure they understand requirements and our needs.  But as a smaller player we wouldn't have necessarily a great deal of influence with them.

7971             I might say I'm not sure any provider in Canada has a great deal of influence with them.  They are really global entities that manufacture for global marketplace.


7972             COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  I must tell you that considering my faith in Canadian entrepreneurship in Canada ‑‑ yes, that's redundant, but still, in Canadian entrepreneurship and its success in the past hundred years, I find it very difficult each time I hear that argument.

7973             There are a number of small companies ‑‑ I get the picture.  I understand the picture.  But what I don't understand is why you present it such as a fatality as if nothing can be done.

7974             So I will bring you back to the CWTA.  You said you are not sure that they have undertaken that issue.  Well, as a member of the CWTA, which groups a number of organizations with similar issues that you have to deal with, would you undertake to take that with the CWTA and make it an issue that they will bring forward in their activities?

7975             MR. SHEPHERD:  I will undertake to have our representative on the CWTA Board raise the issue with the CWTA.

7976             COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  Thank you very much.

7977             With regard to the 911 calling issue, I understand when you are relating to the fact that there is a part of the equation that falls under the responsibility of the public safety agencies, and I fully appreciate that.


7978             I would like to know just how much you are engaging with those agencies to let them know and inform them of the new technologies that could help broaden the facilities to receive 911 calls.

7979             MR. SHEPHERD:  I would have to go back and consult with the people that are directly involved with the PSAP, and I will do that.

7980             I know we have worked very closely with the two major PSAPs in Manitoba.  There is a Winnipeg‑based PSAP which is really run by the city, and then there is a provincial PSAP located in Brandon which really serves the rest of the province.

7981             We have worked with both of those PSAPs in the past on implementation, enhancements, the rollout of wireless 911 services.

7982             I am not certain that we have had discussions on these issues, but I will go back and find out if we have and undertake to let you know what the state of those discussions are.

7983             COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  Thank you.

7984             Now, regarding your message relay service, is it currently available in both French and English?

7985             MS SOLMAN:  You know what, I'm not sure.  So I will have to take that one away.


7986             I'm guessing yes, but I don't want to guess.

7987             COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  Thank you.  I appreciate that.

7988             As far as your customer service is concerned, is it available in both French and English?

7989             MS SOLMAN:  We would be able to provide service in both French and English, yes.

7990             COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  You would be able to provide it, but are you currently providing it in both French and English?

7991             MS SOLMAN:  Yes.

7992             COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  Yes.  Your upgrade to your Internet site to enhance accessibility, would you be doing that in both French and English also?

7993             MS SOLMAN:  That's only done in English.

7994             COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  So currently your Internet site is only available in English?

7995             MS SOLMAN:  Aspects of the site are available in French and English, but the consumer market site in Manitoba that deals with the products and services related to accessibility is only in English.


7996             COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  Any plans to also make it available in French?

7997             MS SOLMAN:  No, not right now.

7998             COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  So when you say your customer service is also available in French, does that exclude the Internet part of it?

7999             MS SOLMAN:  Yes, that would ‑‑ when you asked me the question on customer service, that would mean if a customer called in and wanted to understand what products and services are available in French, they would be able to have that information given to them in French, but it would be over the phone.

8000             COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  Okay.  So how does a person who is deaf and French and living in Manitoba and who is a client of MTS reach customer service in a timely fashion?

8001             Certainly they can write a letter, but...

8002             MS SOLMAN:  Through our MRS service.  So they would go through MRS and then that MRS operator would then notify the customer service group.

8003             COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  Okay.  Given that it is confirmed that it is also available in French?


8004             MS SOLMAN:  Yes, given that it is confirmed.

8005             COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  Let's assume that for now.  Let's assume that for now.

8006             MS SOLMAN:  Okay.

8007             COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  On page 7 of your presentation you mentioned that, you know, people can go to your stores and there is a kiosk and the kiosk will allow customers to check out products before buying.

8008             Paragraph 7.  I'm not sure if I said page 7 or paragraph 7.  It's paragraph 7.

8009             That brought to mind for me an issue I had with a certain retail service who was offering me to use a product for 30 days and if I didn't like it, I could bring it back and either replace it or, you know, just give me back my money.


8010             So I'm wondering if you ever thought about offering people with disabilities ‑‑ well, you could offer it to all your customers, but let's just limit it for now to people with disabilities ‑‑ a 90‑day trial period with, you know, a new device, a new contract and basically within 90 days if they are not satisfied with the device, the contract basically becomes moot, is over; and if they like it and it is past the 91st day and you don't receive any callback, then the contract continues.

8011             Have you ever considered that?

8012             MS SOLMAN:  No, I don't believe we have.

8013             We have rental TTY.  So if you rented one and you didn't like it, you could just bring it back and get a different one.  But we don't have a trial on the outright sale models, no.

8014             The purpose of the kiosk is so that they can come and see what they are buying, right, versus seeing a picture on the website.  And they can actually go for training.

8015             We actually have training, too, in the building that I work in today; that our special needs rep will provide special training to customers who want to come to the building themselves.

8016             If they are not happy with it, we would probably take it back and exchange it for them, but we don't have a policy per se.  So it is something we could consider.


8017             COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  Yes, will you, please, because quite frankly I certainly appreciate the initiative having people to have hands‑on.  But I think we have all experienced this.  You don't really appreciate all the qualities and the flaws of whatever device you purchase, either in a home appliance or a cell phone, until you are really trying to get something done with it and you are faced with that possibility of doing it.

8018             So given that these devices are, I would say, of quite a high importance to people with disabilities, it may be worthwhile to serve that segment of your clientele in a more dedicated fashion I may say.

8019             MS SOLMAN:  Yes, we can take that away.

8020             COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  Those are all questions, Mr. Katz.

8021             THE CHAIRPERSON:  Thank you.

8022             Are there any other questions from the Panel?

8023             Commissioner Duncan...?

8024             COMMISSIONER DUNCAN:  I have a few questions.

8025             First of all, I wonder if you could help me understand.  I rather had the impression that it could be a progression, you know, from MRS to IPRS and then VRS.


8026             So I am interested to know ‑‑ first of all, I had also read that the TTY technology was not being further enhanced or developed, although I did note your comment that it is available as a portable TTY.

8027             So I'm wondering what is happening with TTY technology.

8028             I also would appreciate understanding, or your correcting my misunderstanding if that is the case, that IPRS wouldn't be an obvious and important advancement that would warrant more attention, because you said you weren't currently looking at it.

8029             MR. SHEPHERD:  I will try and tackle those one at a time.

8030             TTY is a service.  Most of the advancement in it I think has come from improvements in the actual terminal.  That continues to be developed.  New terminals continue to be made available, and generally the terminals ‑‑ you know, one of the things I talked about is some of them are portable and can be used with a wireless handset, for example.


8031             So there continue to be development by the terminal manufacturers of such devices, and as those become available on the market and we refresh our product line we look for opportunities to bring in new models or enhanced models.

8032             Pat talked about how we operate our MRS internally using internal staff.

8033             One of the I guess disadvantages of doing that is that it is a smaller scale operation.  I believe there is technology that can be implemented in an MRS Center, an operations center, you know, a voice to text technology, for example, that can automate some functions that an operator might perform.

8034             We have not implemented that and it is largely I think a question of the scale.  You know, you need a fairly large investment.

8035             So those are some of the advantages that a larger, more consolidated center, whether it is MRS or VRS, can bring to bear as the ability to support larger investments that can be spread over a larger customer base then.

8036             So I think TTY is certainly not static.  There are opportunities ‑‑ and MRS isn't static.


8037             In terms of the IP relay service, it is probably reflective of a gap in our thinking.  It hasn't been something that, you know, I have been aware of.  Perhaps our staff that are more directly engaged in the area are aware of it, but when I inquired of them they had not undertaken any specific initiatives.  So I think it is an opportunity.

8038             I suspect, like the rest of things based on the Internet and these services, it is going to continue to evolve.

8039             COMMISSIONER DUNCAN:  Now, the TTY, I understood initially that people bought their own, but I believe Ms Solman mentioned that you do rent them.

8040             I'm just wondering what those types of units cost and what they rent for.

8041             MR. SHEPHERD:  We can provide you that information.

8042             COMMISSIONER DUNCAN:  Thank you.

8043             MR. SHEPHERD:  I know we have a range of I think on the order of a dozen to nine different devices and some are rental, some are purchase.

8044             But we will provide that information to you on the specifics.

8045             COMMISSIONER DUNCAN:  If a customer purchases it from you, would it likely be at a more discounted rate or a discounted rate to what they could get it somewhere else?

8046             Do you offer any special pricing for your TTYs?


8047             MR. SHEPHERD:  I don't think on the purchased TTYs that our pricing would be different.  It would be a market‑based price.

8048             COMMISSIONER DUNCAN:  Okay.  I have a question following on Mr. Stark's suggestions and I was just interested in your comments on that.

8049             He has recommended that:

"All service providers make available brochures in all alternative formats describing amenities for the users with disabilities and how to obtain them."  (As read)

8050             So they want to know everything that is available in a brochure, so they don't have to wonder, go searching, you know, living without knowing something is available to them; that you would have a brochure.

8051             Is that something that you do or would consider doing?

8052             MR. SHEPHERD:  We don't do it today, but I mean if it is a single brochure that aligns all of the accessibility products plus perhaps other regular products, to some extent, we will review it and see if it is feasible.

8053             COMMISSIONER DUNCAN:  Okay.


8054             MR. SHEPHERD:  We will take that away to have a look at.

8055             COMMISSIONER DUNCAN:  So would you intend by doing that to give us some comment back on whether you thought that was a reasonable suggestion?

8056             MR. SHEPHERD:  Yes, we will review it and we will provide feedback.  I'm not sure what the timeframe would be, Commissioner, but we will review it and commit to come back with an indication of what we found and whether we intend to proceed or not.

8057             COMMISSIONER DUNCAN:  Okay.  We do have a couple of undertakings that we wanted to add.

8058             First of all, this is with respect to providing information accessible format.  So if you can answer my first question, that would be good too; but if that one is longer, well that's fine.

8059             But these ones we would like to have and legal will let you know what the timing is.

8060             We are wanting to know the cost implications of providing the information that you currently provide in alternative formats for persons that are blind in ASL and LSQ, in an audio recording on CD are on your website and in both official languages and in plain text.


8061             Also the cost implications of providing additional information in alternate formats on how to use MTS services, for example, descriptive video, PVR features ‑‑ I could use that lesson myself actually ‑‑ operating information for cell phones, as well, if you could give us some information on that.

8062             MR. SHEPHERD:  We will look for the undertaking in detail.

8063             COMMISSIONER DUNCAN:  Thank you.

8064             Those are my questions, Mr. Chairman.  Thank you.

8065             THE CHAIRPERSON:  Thank you, Commissioner Duncan.

8066             Does legal counsel ‑‑ they do.

8067             Go ahead.

8068             Me LEHOUX:  Merci.

8069             Can you provide the responses to the undertakings by December 2nd?  Is it reasonable for you?

8070             MS GRIFFIN‑MUIR:  I think we will be able to do that, yes.

8071             I guess maybe there might be information on the brochure for disability products that might take a little longer.

8072             MS LEHOUX:  Just please advise us if it does.


8073             MS GRIFFIN‑MUIR:  Certainly.

8074             MS LEHOUX:  Thank you.

8075             THE CHAIRPERSON:  Thank you.  This concludes MTS' participation before us.

8076             We will move on to the next group.

8077             Madam Secretary...?

8078             Thank you very much.

8079             THE SECRETARY:  I will now call on GoAmerica Inc. to come to the presentation table.

‑‑‑ Pause

8080             THE CHAIRPERSON:  Madam Secretary, do you want introduce the panel?

8081             THE SECRETARY:  We will now proceed with the presentation by GoAmercia Inc.

8082             Please introduce yourselves.  You have 15 minutes for your presentation.

PRESENTATION / PRÉSENTATION

8083             MR. BRICK (interpreted):  Good morning, my name is Kelby Brick, I am Vice‑President of Regulatory and Strategic Policy at GoAmerica.

8084             We are currently going through a name change.  We are now called Purple Communications Inc., which may explain some of the difference in our original filing and the PowerPoint that you see here.


8085             Here next to me is Stephen Kane.  He is a Senior Manager of Business Development.

8086             We are pleased to be here this morning.  We have been here all week.  We have been able to listen to all of the different presentations and we are very thankful for the opportunity to present to you this morning.

8087             I am going to be touching on certain slides here, some of the different topics that you see.  I am not going to actually read the PowerPoint.  If you feel like there is something that I have touched on too lightly, feel free to go ahead and ask questions later.

8088             We are a United States‑based service provider.  We provide relay services in the States.  We provide several different manners of access to our consumers.  We are the largest provider of text relay.  We are the second largest provider of video relay service.

8089             We are the largest provider of community interpreting services and that includes interpreting for events such as doctors appointments, meetings.  It also includes CART services, real‑time captioning like what you see going on over there on the two screens over there.

8090             We also provide video remote interpreting services.


8091             We also provide State TTY relay services and we are just recently certified to provide Internet captioned telephone relay service.

8092             So we provide several different relay services and each one are unique and they meet a different need.  It is not a matter of transitioning from one service to another.  One is unique to each consumer base that we are trying to meet the needs.

8093             Some consumers are not able to use all of those different types of relay services and we try to meet all of the needs of our consumers.

8094             Our company really has a long history of being part of the community that we serve.  We have a large number of deaf employees, hard of hearing employees.  We have a strong history of consulting with different stakeholders and that is something that we feel strongly about.  It is something that we feel is important and it helps us continue a high quality of service.


8095             For example, you heard some presentations this week about companies ignoring their feedback, the consumers.  They are the consumers and they are not consulting with the consumers.  We work hard to make sure that our company is populated by employees that are deaf.  Therefore, our employees are also our consumers.

8096             We get instant feedback.  We are able to ensure that we meet the needs of the community as it evolves.

8097             We have gone through a lot of consultations with different stakeholders here in Canada, different organizations, different phone companies, different businesses, different agencies.  That is including our text relay partner, Stellar Nordia, who is a call service provider here in Canada.

8098             Our model is unique.  In the service that we provide we make sure that we provide a balanced approach.  We have several call centers all over the country and you have heard some people having concerns that the impact on the interpreting community.  That is true to some extent, but what we have done to address that in the States is we scaled through several centers, what we call balancing the load.

8099             What we do is when we set up a relay center, we set up a community base and of VRS Center at the same time.  So we are able to meet the needs in that community at the same time as meeting the needs of our VRS minutes.


8100             For example, if there is a lot of need in the community that day, maybe we could pull some of the interpreters from the video relay center and put them out into the community.

8101             So it is a balanced approach.  We are able to balance because we have VRS in the community and we are able to pull and give‑and‑take from each.

8102             We would also be able to route those calls to a different center that could handle the calls as well.

8103             We have heard from several different stakeholders here in Canada that we have a public interest mandate.  They want functional equivalency.  That is an American terminology and I will discuss that a little further on the next slide.

8104             Basically as you have seen and as you have heard all week ‑‑ and I believe you understand it ‑‑ the deaf and hard of hearing community want to have access to telephone communication.  They want to be able to make and receive phone calls.


8105             The economic benefit of VRS is really fabulous.  I can tell you many different stories of people who have come to us and said, you know, for the first time in their life they are able to get a job or maybe for the first time in their life ‑‑ or they have been in the same position for 20 years and because of the access to the communication, they are able to be promoted because now they can actually communicate with their coworkers through phone conferences and so forth.

8106             So just giving them access is able to give them a higher standard of life.

8107             We have been able to have innovative technology, video technology, new ways to innovate the equipments, the platform.  We are able to develop all of those and the key to that is it is created to buy a competitive model.  Companies must be incentivized to provide services to upgrade their quality, to hold themselves to a higher standard, to keep up with the technology changes.

8108             As you see every day in the hearing world, technology changes all the time.  We can't afford to stay stagnant in either side.

8109             We are here to ensure that and the only way to ensure that is by having a competitive model.  What that does is it ensures that the consumers have a choice of which provider they want to use.  If a provider doesn't satisfy their needs, they can change to a different provider.  That is a way that it motivates the companies to keep up with technology changes.


8110             Functional equivalency was established in the States when the American Disabilities Act was mandated and the FCC ‑‑ what that does is it mandates the FCC to set up functional equivalency for people, deaf and hard of hearing people, to receive and make phone calls.

8111             In other words, if a hearing person can do that, we have an obligation to ensure that to the deaf and hard of hearing people that they can do it the same way and that we need to develop the appropriate services, the appropriate technology, the appropriate paradigm to ensure that deaf and hard of hearing people have the same access to routine communication that hearing people have.

8112             Now, the terminology here is a little different and that's fine, but the principles are the same.  As many of you already articulated throughout the week, it is our obligation to provide a functionally equivalent service and that deaf and hard of hearing people should not be left out.

8113             You have heard some concerns about the cost of the service.  I think the real question is: What is the cost of doing nothing?

8114             There is a lot of research out there that shows that the economic impact of the deaf and hard‑of‑hearing being left out, excluded from everyday life, is tremendous.


8115             We are not talking about millions of dollars, we are talking about billions of dollars.

8116             We have already seen in the States that phone communication is the key to ensuring that deaf and hard‑of‑hearing people are included, that they are able to become taxpayers and are included in society.

8117             So, truly, this is a good investment for Canada, as well as the companies.  They can receive a return on investment.

8118             Now you have so many customers who are not getting services because they have no need for them.  They don't need broadband.  They don't need a phone.  They don't need them because those types of things are not accessible to them.  They are not things they need.

8119             They don't need a phone, because they are not going to use the phone.

8120             They don't need broadband, because there is no VRS here.

8121             So as we grow this in Canada, you will be able to see the economic benefit to those companies with new customer growth.


8122             What we are proposing, with all due respect, is that the first thing you do is that the CRTC officially decides that we must have a national relay service that includes video relay services, and an internet text relay service as well.

8123             Once that has been decided, we are suggesting that you bring in an expert to provide a specific analysis.

8124             There is so much information that is already out there, that is already available, you just need someone to bring it all into one place, so that you can see all of the different feedback that is out there, all of the different technologies that are out there, all of the different ways of setting things up that are out there.  Just bring it all here, so you can see all of that in one report.

8125             Naturally, there will be some tweaks that you will have to make to make it effective here in Canada.  One of the ideas might be to have a third party administrator of the funds that are brought in from the phone companies and broadband providers.  Those funds would be used for the reimbursement of relay services that certified providers would be providing here in Canada.

8126             Certification is a way that you can ensure that there is a competitive model here in Canada.


8127             You noticed that I mentioned a certification process.  That is one way that ‑‑ you don't have to deal with fly‑by‑night providers that want to come in and just set up and get the money and not provide quality services.  That is something we have in the States.  The FCC has set up some criteria that you might want to adopt here in Canada.

8128             Again, it is a way to ensure quality services.

8129             Some of the criteria are that you have to have enough capital to provide the service and keep it going.

8130             You have to have current platforms, you have to have experience in managing call centres and those types of relay services.

8131             You have to have a longstanding relationship with your consumer base.

8132             You also have to have expertise in majority and minority languages.

8133             In the States, we are providing ASL to English services, as well as Spanish to ASL services.

8134             There are a lot of parallels here in Canada with LSQ in French, and ASL to English here in Canada, as well.


8135             The process is similar.  Naturally, we would have to take into account the specific nuances that are different here in Canada, but, really, the principle is the same.  The fundamental part of that is the same.  We are providing two languages in the States; therefore, in the long term, I don't see a negative impact here in Canada.  I actually see a positive impact.

8136             I would like to explain a little bit about what I really ‑‑ I have an example of how the competitive model has really shown in the States ‑‑ we have really had a lot of technological advancement.  What I am holding in my hand is the mobile video phone, the MVP.  It is revolutionary for deaf and hard‑of‑hearing people.

8137             The old video phone, what we have now, is a box, and you set it up in a specific room, in a specific location.  If I leave that room, I can't make or receive phone calls.  I'm stuck.  I am wired to that room.

8138             If someone is calling me and I'm not in that room, I miss that phone call.


8139             With the mobile video phone, I can carry it around.  I can take it with me.  I can put it in my bag.  I can make and receive phone calls on the road.

8140             I have an example where, for me, it really ‑‑ it really is transformative for me.  I was on a business trip, and I had a layover ‑‑ and if I was on the road, it used to be that if I got a message that said, "I need to talk to you right now, it's really important," I would have to wait until I got home.  I couldn't do any business on the road.

8141             This summer I was on a business trip, and I had a layover, and I got a message that said, "I need to talk to you.  It's urgent."  I was able to make a phone call in the airport, walking from one gate to the next.  I did my business, and when it was done, I just put it right back in my bag.

8142             That may not be a big deal to you, because you see people all the time on cell phones making phone calls, doing business, while they are moving all the time.  But, for us, the deaf and hard‑of‑hearing community, that is something we have never been able to experience.  We have never been able to make a phone call on the road.

8143             That is something that we need to pursue, to make sure that we have functional equivalency here, to make sure that deaf and hard‑of‑hearing people here are not falling behind.


8144             To be honest with you, we are ready to go.  We would be ready to go tomorrow.  We would be able to turn the switch and go.  We have the platform, we have the technology, we have the employees ‑‑ we are ready to go.

8145             It would take a little bit of time to develop the specific needs that match the Canadian needs.  Your languages and your labour pools, and all of that, that would require time to be scalable, and we could do that.

8146             It's not a problem.  It's not a problem that we foresee having a huge impact.  Like I said, we have expertise in providing majority and minority languages, and we already provide 911 services in the States.


8147             You have heard a lot this week about the difficulties in 911 services here in Canada.  One person even said that 911 services aren't going to be available for another 10 or 15 years through relay.  We are already providing that in the States.  We are already providing 911 services through relay in the States, and through several of my discussions with the phone companies and other stakeholders here in Canada, I don't see a problem.  We would have to tweak the system a little bit, but it is something that we could definitely accommodate here.

8148             The technology is available, you just have to capture it, and optimize it, and fit it to have it be compatible with relay services.

8149             Going back to what we recommend, we recommend that the CRTC take a stance on setting up a national relay service and bringing in expertise to consult you on specific systems, on specific processes that need to be established, including a national funding mechanism, reimbursement rates, minimum standards for certification, how to ensure a competitive model here in Canada, how to ensure access through the NANP numbering system.

8150             I don't see much need for much more delay.  We are ready to go, and we believe that Canada is ready to go.  The demand is here.  The need is here.  The phone companies that have presented this week are in support of a national relay service model, we just need to figure out how to fund it.

8151             You don't have to reinvent the wheel here, it is something we have done.  We have done the heavy lifting.  We just need to fit the economic model here in Canada.


8152             Again, I want to thank you for the opportunity to present here, and Stephen and I will be happy to answer any questions you may have about our service, about the model that we have in the States, and about what we can do in Canada.

8153             THE CHAIRPERSON:  Thank you very much.

8154             I would ask Commissioner Simpson to lead the questions.

8155             COMMISSIONER SIMPSON:  Thank you very much for your presentation, Mr. Brick.

8156             Be prepared to be here for a while.  We have questions.

8157             MR. BRICK (interpreted):  Bring it on.  We're ready.

‑‑‑ Laughter / Rires

8158             COMMISSIONER SIMPSON:  Earlier in our interrogatories with MTS Allstream, I was making reference to some figures that have been thrown around concerning percentages of the population with hearing disabilities.  I would like to start by extracting some of your understanding of the order of magnitude of the community in Canada.


8159             Have you done research that is comparable to the research we have been seeing out of the United States that seems to indicate that the percentage of the population is somewhere around 8 to 9 percent with those who have some form of hearing disability, and approximately 5 percent with what is considered a profound hearing disability?

8160             Have you done research in Canada at this point on which you can give us some insight concerning that?

8161             MR. BRICK (interpreted):  I am going to let Stephen answer that question, but, just for the record, my understanding from the deaf and hard‑of‑hearing community here in Canada is that they would rather be called deaf and hard‑of‑hearing, rather than the hearing impaired community.  So we will go with that terminology this morning.

8162             MR. KANE:  Let's start with what we know about the United States.  What we know about the United States is that the deaf population is somewhere between 500,000 to 1 million people.

8163             We know that the hard‑of‑hearing population is much larger than that.  It is probably something closer to 30 million people, or about 8, 9, 10 percent of our country, and that includes the growing population of baby boomers.

8164             Clearly, if you take the popular 10 percent rule, you can apply that to Canada.


8165             We haven't done any independent research in Canada to get the deaf population figure.  We looked at a CAD study, which puts the number somewhere at 310,000 or so for deaf, and then about 3.1 million for hard‑of‑hearing.

8166             But I think that even they acknowledge that that study must be taken with a grain of salt.  If you look on their website, they say that themselves.

8167             And they take that by applying the 10 percent rule to another U.S. study, which says that there are about 3 million deaf people in the United States, but we think that's high.  We think it is more like 500,000 to 1 million deaf people in the United States.

8168             I think the inherent problem we face is that nobody really knows.

8169             COMMISSIONER SIMPSON:  What is fun about this line of questioning is that we are having the pleasure of having a company in front of us which is trying to build a business model and a business case for our country based on some assumptions, so I would assume that you are going to make some effort to try to understand what that community represents, because there is a big swing between 1 million and 3 million people, in terms of projections.


8170             MR. KANE:  There is a big swing.  We would love to work with you and other stakeholders here in Canada to come up with a more accurate figure.

8171             We are already reaching out to all of the non‑profits and advocacy groups and companies here, and we would love to work with government to find that out.

8172             COMMISSIONER SIMPSON:  Making some assumptions at this point, then, that potentially there are 100,000 people who are deaf ‑‑

8173             Am I correct?

8174             MR. KANE:  Yes, I think 50,000 to 100,000.

8175             COMMISSIONER SIMPSON:  In Canada.

8176             MR. KANE:  Fifty to 100,000.

8177             COMMISSIONER SIMPSON:  We are also hearing ‑‑ I am not sure where it came from, and maybe you could help me understand this.  We are hearing from companies like TELUS that they think a 24/7 video relay service would cost $100 million to set up in this country.

8178             Is that your understanding?


8179             MR. KANE:  For the same reason that it's difficult to know what the population of deaf people is in Canada, it would be hard to predict what a relay service would cost.

8180             What we did in our report was, we used this 50,000 to 100,000 estimate, which is basically the 10 percent rule, and then we made some guesses, really, about different factors ‑‑ broadband access, familiarity with technology, equipment rollout to deaf Canadians, how many deaf Canadians know ASL or LSQ.

8181             So you can see that it's a broad, broad range that we put in our written submission.

8182             Fifty million to $100 million, that would give sticker shock to anybody.

8183             But it's a huge range because there are so many unknowns.

8184             So we would love to work with you to figure out what the population is, and what the costs might be.

8185             It also entirely depends on the reimbursement rate.

8186             COMMISSIONER SIMPSON:  Okay.

8187             MR. BRICK (interpreted):  I would like to add that one factor behind the discussion of numbers is that I want to be cautious not to assume that, specifically, the deaf population is going to use VRS only.


8188             Like I said in my presentation, different people use different types of relay.  It's what fits their needs.  Some hard‑of‑hearing people don't use sign language, so they have to use a text relay.

8189             We are talking about a larger group of people, so the numbers become a little more murky.  I wish we had a more clear number for you, but, again, it includes so many different people.

8190             COMMISSIONER SIMPSON:  Fair enough.

8191             Let's swing the conversation back to our neighbours in the United States and see if we can learn from the history of the development of that technology down there.

8192             Most of the deaf and hard‑of‑hearing community in the United States started out their technological adventures on TTY, and have migrated to more enhanced MRS services.

8193             First of all, how many companies would you guesstimate are in the MRS business today in the United States?

8194             MR. BRICK (interpreted):  I have the exact number in front of me, hold on one second.


8195             MR. KANE:  Every company that provides this kind of service in the United States is certified, so we are able to give you an exact figure.

8196             COMMISSIONER SIMPSON:  Thank you.

‑‑‑ Pause

8197             MR. BRICK (interpreted):  There are seven companies in the States that provide MRS services.

8198             COMMISSIONER SIMPSON:  Great.  How many companies ‑‑ and if you are not in possession of the hard numbers, I would ask for a guess ‑‑ were in this business five years ago?

8199             Were there more or less than seven?

8200             MR. BRICK (interpreted):  I would say it is roughly the same number.  One or two companies have left, and one or two companies have come into the market, so I would say that it is roughly the same number.

8201             COMMISSIONER SIMPSON:  I am just trying to get some dynamic data here as to which way the MRS industry is going, whether it is still expanding, or whether it is starting to give over to newer technology.

8202             Organizations like Verizon in the United States, it appears, got out of the message relay business by being acquired by your company.

8203             Is that correct?


8204             MR. BRICK (interpreted):  That is correct.

8205             COMMISSIONER SIMPSON:  What was their reasoning?  Did you make them an offer that they couldn't refuse, or did they know something that we don't?

8206             MR. BRICK (interpreted):  AT&T is still in the business.  Sprint is still in the business.  Verizon, for various reasons, did not want to be in the business, and they didn't want to be in the business for a long time.  They got out of the relay business more than 10 years ago, and then a few years ago, when Verizon acquired MCI, it came with a relay division, and Verizon didn't want to manage that division.

8207             So Verizon had been looking for a buyer since they bought MCI.

8208             Verizon has many different divisions compared to other phone companies.  Therefore, they wanted to get out of that relay business.


8209             COMMISSIONER SIMPSON:  Great.  Still going along this line of questioning to try to understand where the MRS business is in the United States today, could you give me some of your best guesses as to ‑‑ out of a population of a million people, what percentage of those people today are using MRS services?

8210             MR. BRICK (interpreted):  My best guess?  Let's see.

8211             To be honest with you, about 10 years ago ‑‑

8212             You know what?  I am not able to give a number.  I don't feel comfortable to speculate on that.

8213             MR. KANE:  I think an important point to make is that it is critical to have a mix of services.  Some people use IP relay and not video relay.  Some people use video relay and not IP relay.

8214             Some people who are more familiar with older technology still use what we call TTY and you call MRS, and that's for very good reasons.  There is either a gap in the understanding of technology, or it's a language barrier within the deaf community.  Some people know English, but not ASL.  Some people know ASL, but not English.  Some know both.

8215             And, then, it's appropriate to use different communication tools for different purposes, just like we do.


8216             You also have to throw in to the mix IM, Google chat, normal text messaging, SMS.  That is all important.

8217             It is difficult to have exact figures on who uses what because it's a mix.

8218             COMMISSIONER SIMPSON:  Engineers hate exogenous variables when there are more exogenous variables in the equation than there are constants, and bankers even more so.  When you get to government and the CRTC, it's off the scale.

8219             If we are dealing with a relative unknown in terms of the pure numbers, never arguing for a second about the importance of serving the deaf and hard‑of‑hearing communities, but in trying to get some numbers, if we are not sure about the marketplace numbers, and we are not sure about the uptake and the continued use of MRS ‑‑ and I am thinking, in particular, about being your banker now, which is what you are asking, I think, for Canada to become ‑‑

8220             MR. KANE:  An investment partner.

‑‑‑ Laughter / Rires

8221             COMMISSIONER SIMPSON:  Have you looked at the market lately?

‑‑‑ Laughter / Rires

8222             MR. KANE:  It's a good time to get in.

‑‑‑ Laughter / Rires


8223             COMMISSIONER SIMPSON:  Very good.

8224             I am trying to get a best guess from people who are in the business, and whose livelihoods are based on your success in this business, as to whether MRS ‑‑ what the life is still ‑‑ the life expectancy of MRS.

8225             Where are we in that continuum, and is it impacted by an aging population that is still locked into older technology that they are comfortable with?

8226             Give me your best business case as to why MRS is something that we should jump into.

8227             Excuse me, VRS is something that we should jump into.

8228             MR. BRICK (interpreted):  I will let Stephen answer first, and then I will comment.

8229             MR. KANE:  First of all, just to add some more colour to why it is difficult to get exact figures on who uses IP relay versus video relay, part of it is because we are not the only player in the market.

8230             We might know what our customers use, but we don't know what everyone else is doing.


8231             Part of it with respect to Canada is because we don't know how many Canadians know ASL and LSQ, versus how many know English or French.

8232             So it's a major challenge.  It is difficult to speculate or predict.

8233             In terms of the business case for VRS, I think there is a very good case for making that investment in Canada.

8234             First of all, it is a much better investment because it is a much cheaper investment than it would have been if you had to do it yourselves without the U.S.  Back in 2002, the reimbursement rate per minute was in excess of $17 per minute.  Now it is down to something more like $6, between $6.20 and $6.70.

8235             You don't have to make all those up‑front investments in equipment and technology and training that the United States has already made.  We are already there.  So they had to incentivize companies to come in and invest in equipment, building a labour pool, getting training.  You don't have to do any of that.  You are just facing a marginal cost.  The fixed cost is done.


8236             Not only that, you can take advantage of our existing labour pool.  We have got capacity.  So as we scale, we can provide interpreters from the U.S. for Canada, not the other way around, which would hurt the community.  We are actually helping the community.

8237             Over time, we would like to invest in growing the Canadian labour pool.  We would like to come out here and make a commitment to Canada and provide jobs for Canadians.  But as an interim solution, it is a much better deal for you than it was for the U.S. because we are already there.

8238             Now, Kelby discussed the cost of doing nothing.  That is the real question.  Right now, you are losing anywhere between $600 million and $3.24 billion a year by doing nothing.  So communication barriers are extremely expensive.

8239             If I went to any CEO in the world and I said, I have got a great investment business opportunity for you, for $50 million your return on investment will be a minimum of $600 million a year, there is not a CEO in the world who would say no to that.

8240             That doesn't take into consideration the business opportunities for the telecoms.  We all know that telecoms have a lot of money.  I mean even if this were to cost $100, $200, $300 million a year, it is nothing compared to the revenue and profits of the telephone companies.  All the top telephone companies together make about $30 billion a year in revenue.


8241             A hundred million dollars next to $30 billion is less than one third of one percent of their revenue.

8242             Not only that but this is an investment for them.  It might look like they are losing money in the short run.  In the long run, they have the capacity to make a ton more money.

8243             SMS technology and instant messaging all had early adopters in the deaf market.  I would be curious to ask the telecoms how much of their revenue comes from SMS.

8244             Videophones are next and the deaf community can be early adopters to videophones.  So by getting in this market, it can be a great test market for new technology that is coming online in the next few years.

8245             They would be the early adopters, plus their friends and family.

8246             So if you take 50 to 100,000 Canadians who have 5, 10, 15, 20 friends and family, you have a million‑person test market for videophones.  This is R&D.


8247             So not only do you have all the economic benefits of putting Canadians to work, putting deaf Canadians in jobs, taking them off the government rolls, making them productive members of society, but you also have a real tangible investment opportunity for the telecoms, not to mention that integrating people into society is priceless.  So the cost is nothing compared to the benefit.

8248             MR. BRICK (interpreted):  I also want to answer some more of your questions that you may have and this may come as a different context.

8249             We have heard a lot of the term "migration," and yes, that does happen to a certain extent.  There is a migration to the newer technology but none of the relay services that we offer, they are not intended to replace the older technology.  It is not that, you know, you have MRS now, and when you have VRS, MRS is going to go away.

8250             Really, you have consumers that, again, need different types of relay service to keep their lines of communication open.  So it is not a matter of one replacing the other.  It is a matter of offering more options.


8251             And we need to be able to put a price on it to be able to figure out, you know, what the fund needs to be, and that is true.  It is not going to be $100 million day one; it is going to be a scaleable process.  It is going to take some time to build up to that $100‑million price tag.

8252             It is not $100 million today; it is over time.

8253             I think it may be beneficial for you to understand how we calculated that projection.

8254             I am the Chairman of the NECA, the Board of NECA, and what we do is we have the ‑‑ and it is made up of relay service providers, telephone companies, state regulators, and there's consumers represented there as well.

8255             We advise NECA on the process of how to do the projections and the collections and then NECA requires reports from all of the relay service providers.  Those reports are done annually and sometimes even more often and those reports show how much we are actually spending on the services and they also have to show the company's projections for the coming year.

8256             So NECA has confidential information from all of the different companies all brought together.  So they can see all of the trends.  They can see everything.  They see all of the cost variables.  They put it all together and they calculate the cost for the national service.


8257             And then they submit that cost to all of the phone companies and they calculate the cost for the phone companies, telling the phone companies how much they need to put into that fund.

8258             And so far, it works.  We have a somewhat accurate figure for what we need to provide services on a national basis.

8259             COMMISSIONER SIMPSON:  May I ask ‑‑ I am not familiar with this organization that you have spoken of.  May I ask, as an undertaking, if you would provide information to this Commission with respect to the organization, anything that you have by way of contact information and with the goal of setting up some communication?  Thank you.

8260             MR. BRICK (interpreted):  I would be happy to do that.

8261             COMMISSIONER SIMPSON:  Thank you very much.

8262             MR. BRICK (interpreted):  And I just want to repeat the name.  The National Exchange Carrier Association is what it stands for, and again, I am happy to follow up with that information.

8263             COMMISSIONER SIMPSON:  Thank you.


8264             By my admission of not knowing about the organization, that certainly doesn't mean that we are not aware of them, so I just wanted to go on record with that.

8265             I would like to go to the ‑‑ we have heard the benefit model, now let's talk about the cost model a bit.

8266             How have you determined beyond the social benefit statement what the cost recovery and potential profitability for a telephony company would be in participating in a VRS system?

8267             There obviously will be costs to the consumer but what is their business model in terms ‑‑ is it a cost recovery model only?  Is it a profit model?  Beyond the start‑up costs, you know, what is their take in it?

8268             MR. KANE:  It would be difficult for the phone companies to get into this business themselves.  It would require a lot of up‑start costs.

8269             Since providers like us are already doing it, it probably makes sense for phone companies to work with us as third‑party providers or at least for the market to open up to us, depending on how you set things up.  So if they are putting money into the fund, it doesn't necessarily make sense for them to get into the business themselves.

8270             COMMISSIONER SIMPSON:  I think that is where I am going with this questioning.


8271             MR. KANE:  Yes.

8272             COMMISSIONER SIMPSON:  I would love for you to be with me when I walk into the office of a Darren Entwistle or a Jim Shaw and tell them that they are being expected to contribute to the creation of this service but they cannot participate in it from a profitability standpoint.  You know, I am missing something here, obviously.

8273             MR. BRICK (interpreted):  There are over 5,000 phone companies in the United States and any of them can participate in providing services.

8274             They are allowed to do that.  They have the opportunity to do that.

8275             No one is stopping that.  Most don't because it is going to skew their resources and it will affect their bottom line.  But some like AT&T and Sprint, they do provide services and they do receive profits from providing those services.

8276             So again, it goes back to that competitive model.  All companies have to put into the pot but depending on how much of that pot they want to get back depends on what services they go and provide and how they provide those services.

8277             Stephen, anything to add?


8278             MR. KANE:  There are models in the United States where phone companies can provide this service as a white‑label service.

8279             COMMISSIONER SIMPSON:  I am slow on this, so I would like you to give me a walk around the block in terms of the model that you are proposing we look at to initially finance the creation of a VRS service in Canada and how those costs would be maintained on an ongoing basis, assuming that only a small percentage of the burden could be borne by the actual consumer of the service.

8280             MR. BRICK (interpreted):  How it works currently through NECA ‑‑ again, we don't want to say that that is the exact model that we should adopt here in Canada but I think it is good for us to have an understanding about how that model works in the States so that we can figure out what are the options here in Canada.

8281             NECA is authorized by the Federal Communications Commission to manage the third‑party fund and what NECA does is that they calculate the cost expected for that year, the cost of relay, and that is through the process that I just explained.


8282             NECA, on an annual basis, sends a bill out to all of those different telephone companies, saying this is your share to put into the fund, and that is an annual bill that goes out to the phone companies.

8283             That share is based on each company's total revenue and, to be more specific, it is the total of international and interstate revenue.  Right now, that is one‑tenth of one percent of their annual revenue.  That doesn't include their local revenue at all.  So when you factor in that, that ratio that I just gave you is even much smaller.  We are talking of like a hundredth percent of their revenue.

8284             And what you do is you have all of that money in one fund and all of the phone companies that are eligible, all of the providers, all of the companies that are certified as providers, we calculate all of the minutes, how much we ‑‑ how many minutes we have and then we go to NECA and ask for reimbursement for all of the minutes that we provide.  That is where the dollar per minute figure comes in.

8285             That is a big picture explanation of the process.

8286             Stephen, anything to add?

8287             COMMISSIONER SIMPSON:  Okay.  That was a very helpful explanation.  I thank you for that.


8288             I would like to go over to the issue of competition.  You have made several references to building a competitive service and you would welcome competition.

8289             How many companies in the United States are currently providing VRS, the same seven or fewer?

8290             MR. BRICK (interpreted):  There are actually 10 VRS companies according to the most ‑‑ the July report from NECA.  That is what I am looking at.  There are 10 VRS providers.  There is a lot of overlap between the MRS.  There's very few that do either just one or the other.

8291             COMMISSIONER SIMPSON:  Great!

8292             With respect to how you manage your competitive edge in providing your service, I have come to understand that there is a great deal of necessity for standardization within key industries but at the same time there is a need for differentiation to be competitive and I have heard many times that quality issues are often beyond the issue of just technicality.

8293             They have to do with relationships, with the interpreter, the methodology used and so on.

8294             How are you managing your competitive edge on that quality side, assuming ‑‑ leaving technicality or the technical issues alone?


8295             MR. BRICK (interpreted):  First of all, the FCC does establish minimum standards that all providers must meet.  Each company exceeds those standards to attract customers.

8296             Like I said, we have several deaf employees at several different levels in our company.  We have our roots in the deaf community, we have strong roots in the interpreting community, and all of that for our company, that is our company model but that is what we have at our company.

8297             You will hear from another company later on this afternoon, but at our company, we keep our roots in the different communities.  We have lots of consultation time with different organizations in the community.  We are out in the community.

8298             I am not sure if that is exactly the answer that you are looking for.

8299             COMMISSIONER SIMPSON:  I am looking to gain more appreciation for the nuances that are required to provide a satisfactory service to your customer on a non‑technical level.


8300             MR. KANE:  To our customers, the most important thing is interpreter quality.  Since it costs us for them to use any of the services, since the switching costs, depending, are somewhat low, the most important thing we can do is provide quality interpreters with quick answer times who they feel that they can trust over time.

8301             So we invest heavily, heavily, heavily in our interpreters to become the employer of choice for them.  So it is an if you build it they will come sort of thing.  The more we invest in high‑quality good interpreters, the more users come and use our service.

8302             COMMISSIONER SIMPSON:  Could you give us some insights as to what the supply side is like in the United States and your assessment of what it is like in Canada with respect to the pool of interpreter services that you could draw from?

8303             MR. KANE:  Mm‑hmm.  Worldwide, the pool of interpreters is small.  It is a very difficult business or it is a difficult skill to learn.

8304             In the United States, there are standards for interpreters and it can take up to seven or eight years to become a very qualified interpreter at the highest levels.  That doesn't mean it takes seven or eight years to start interpreting in the first place but to get to the highest level of being the best interpreter you could be takes that time, plus work experience.


8305             So we invest heavily in long‑term training, and if we were to come in Canada, that would be part of our plan, is to work with advocacy groups and interpreter agencies and invest in the long‑term quality of interpreters.  It is in our business interest if we were to come out here and do business and it is in the interest of the community to do that.  So we would try to grow that pool.

8306             COMMISSIONER SIMPSON:  On the subject of ‑‑ or staying in this area, do you have any sense of what percentage of the population in the United States is reliant totally upon ASL/LSQ signing languages?

8307             I am trying to probe the issue of illiteracy that impedes their use of text services.

8308             MR. BRICK (interpreted):  A benchmark that is often used in the States is based on not a census but an intensive demographic study that was done and the benchmark that is used is approximately 10 to 11 percent of the general population has hearing loss.  Ten percent of that population are deaf and use sign language.  So that is the ratio that ‑‑ people in the government industry have been using those figures.

8309             I don't believe that figure ‑‑ that formula would be any different here.  We have found it to be true to different parts of the world as well.  So I believe that is something you could use here.


8310             MR. KANE:  But in terms of those who know English, it is not a high rate of ‑‑ I think what he is asking for, Kelby, is the percentage of deaf people who know English and would be able to use IP relay versus be dependent on VRS.  So you could answer that better.

8311             MR. BRICK (interpreted):  Most deaf people are fluent in English, not all of us, I mean not all but many.  I mean I am a lawyer by trade, I am an attorney.  I am fluent with English but I don't use text relay service and the reason for that is because the text relay service is dependent on the speed of someone typing, and the average typist, the best they can type is 60 words per minute.  The average conversation in ASL and English is 200 words per minute, so it is much more of a natural pace to use video relay service.

8312             For deaf and hard of hearing people that don't use sign language or would rather use text, they do that because they are comfortable with that.  I don't think that literacy is the main reason that people choose one over the other.  It is more about what they are more comfortable with.


8313             MR. KANE:  And I think I can answer that.  It is a major difference to have an IP relay call versus VRS.  One is not a substitute for the other at all and all the benefits that you get from VRS are not there from IP relay because there is a delay in the conversation.

8314             Like Kelby is saying, typing time.  If you and I were to have an IP relay conversation, it would sound something like this.  You would say:  Hello (pause) Hi (pause) How are you?  You know, it would be delayed.  That is no good.  That is not good enough for business.  With a VRS call, you wouldn't notice a difference.

8315             I would recommend to every Commissioner to have a VRS call and to have an IP relay call and it will really hit home for you because we have had calls with some advocacy groups and some of the companies out here using VRS and they are floored by it.

8316             COMMISSIONER SIMPSON:  You haven't seen my daughter on MSN Messenger.

‑‑‑ Laughter / Rires

8317             MR. KANE:  Understood.

8318             COMMISSIONER SIMPSON:  The contractions of words aside.


8319             MR. KANE:  Yes, maybe if we could get teenagers as interpreters at call centres, then that could be a good fix.

8320             COMMISSIONER SIMPSON:  Continuing on with the issue of language, you indicated that you are working currently with two languages in the United States; is that correct?

8321             MR. KANE:  Yes.

8322             COMMISSIONER SIMPSON:  And that would be Spanish and English?

8323             MR. KANE:  Correct.

8324             MR. BRICK (interpreted):  Yes, that is correct.

8325             COMMISSIONER SIMPSON:  Do you ‑‑ you have no functional capacity at this point in the services you provide in the United States to provide French to any of your customers or do you provide some services to French‑speaking customers in Canada?

8326             MR. BRICK (interpreted):  No.  That is something that we would need to hire LSQ interpreters for.  Most of ‑‑ according to our consultations, most of what we understand, they are based in Quebec, so we would need to establish a labour pool in Quebec.

8327             COMMISSIONER SIMPSON:  Okay.


8328             May I ask for an undertaking that, should you decide to take the plunge, you would engage in consultation with the francophones, both inside and outside Quebec, as part of your process for entering into a service in this country?

8329             MR. KANE:  We would be eager to do that.  I mean, there's no question it's in our best interest to do that, as well, so absolutely.

8330             COMMISSIONER SIMPSON:  Just a couple of clean‑up questions here.

8331             Do you have any quality‑of‑service standards that exceed those that are imposed upon you, through the FCC or other organizations, that you find particularly beneficial in how you do business that you would be willing to share with this Commission, you know, if they are confidential, through an undertaking?

8332             MR. BRICK (interpreted):  I'm not even sure I understand the question, but I will see if my answer is what you are looking for.

8333             The quality of the interpreter is one example.  We need to provide effective communication.  We have an internal screening assessment process.  We screen our interpreters to make sure that they meet our high standards, and we do that before we put them in our video service environment.  Our customers know that we have some of the best interpreters in the industry, which is one of the reasons they come back to us.


8334             Is that something that answers your question?

8335             COMMISSIONER SIMPSON:  Yes, it does.  You are in the business, you appear to be succeeding in this business, and as we look, as a regulatory body, at setting up the rules of the game for the best interests of the people who live in this country, anything that we can learn, through organizations, that could set the bar of standards higher than what we currently know about, through organizations such as the FCC and other organizations around the world, would be beneficial to our finding.

8336             I think I'm done, Mr. Chairman.

8337             THE CHAIRPERSON:  Thank you, Commissioner Simpson.

8338             I have got a couple of questions, and perhaps some of our other panellists have them, as well.

8339             Can I refer you to paragraph 31 of the GoAmerica submission, dated October 6th?

8340             In that paragraph, we will come back to the beginning of it, but you talk about the $50 million to $100 million per year, and you have got the estimates down below in the footnote as to how you got there.


8341             How much of that cost per year is fixed and how much of it is variable?  In other words, how much of it is tied to usage and demand and how much of it is just infrastructure and ongoing links and broadband and support services and overhead and whatever else?

8342             MR. KANE:  Well, that figure is based on whatever the reimbursement rate is.  And, obviously, some percentage of that rate goes towards various parts of the business ‑‑

8343             THE CHAIRPERSON:  Yes, but your extracting that money from NECA ‑‑ I understand how the model works.  You are extracting money from NECA, and it's based on your costs and your overheads and everything else.

8344             How much of the per‑minute cost that you have got in paragraph 28 of $6.73 to $6.26 a minute is fixed and how much of it is tied to usage?

8345             MR. KANE:  It's mostly marginal, it's mostly tied to usage, but we can get you more information on that.  And we would be interested in working with you on that.

8346             THE CHAIRPERSON:  Okay, it's tied to usage.  If you can get me more information, I would certainly appreciate it.


8347             MR. KANE:  Sure, absolutely.

8348             THE CHAIRPERSON:  And let me pursue that question a bit further.

8349             It's tied to usage, and I tried to do the math with $50 million to $100 million and your reference in footnote 10 of the 15,000 to 30,000 people who realistically would rely on this because they have got a familiarity with ASL and LSQ, and if you do the balance, and I took the lowest number with the most people requiring it and the other way around, I ended up getting $3.25 per minute up to $12 per minute, just looking at the upper and lower bounds, which basically says that the $3.25 is low relative to what you are currently experiencing now after a year, two years, three years in the business.

8350             So I think that the number might actually be low, not high, to start with, based on the mathematics that I have done.  But, more importantly, it's also based on, and this is why I asked the question about fixed versus variable costs, it's based on 500 minutes per year, which, in 12 months, is based on 40 minutes per month.

8351             And I'm not sure if you are aware or not, but Canadians are probably the most talkative people in this free world.


‑‑‑ Laughter / Rires

8352             THE CHAIRPERSON:  And so if I take that number and say, instead of it being 500 minutes per year, which is 40 minutes per month, and quadruple it and say it's 2,000 minutes a year, which is 180 minutes a month, which is only six minutes a day ‑‑ 6 times 30 ‑‑ you are going to end up with triple and quadruple this cost.

8353             You end up with triple and quadruple this cost.  So I'm trying to understand that, if we are going to get into this, are we looking at something that's not $50 million to $100 million, but $500 million to $1 billion?

8354             MR. KANE:  No, no.  I think I can help put that in perspective.

8355             You know, over 80 percent of deaf communication is deaf to deaf.  So you are talking about a very small percentage of overall communication that's deaf to hearing.  So you can't take the normal figures that would apply to you and me, in terms of how much we talk on the phone, and apply that to how much a deaf person would use VRS.  It's a lot lower than we would talk on the phone.


8356             And so it's about right, if you think about it.  If 20 percent of their communication is deaf to hearing, then 500 minutes a year is about right.

8357             THE CHAIRPERSON:  But wouldn't people with hearing disability talking to people with hearing disability also require maybe not the operator but the video relay, the VRS network, as well, which again goes back to my question:  how much of it is fixed and how much of it is tied to labour?

8358             MR. KANE:  In a deaf‑to‑deaf call, they can do it in a variety of ways, right?  I mean, they could use iChat.  So my point is more that deaf‑to‑deaf communication is predominant in the deaf community.  It's over 80 percent.

8359             THE CHAIRPERSON:  And it won't rely on VRS at all?

8360             MR. KANE:  It won't rely on an interpreter.  It won't rely on reimbursement.  It won't drive the cost up.

8361             THE CHAIRPERSON:  So we are now looking at a VRS service for the 20 percent of the calls that the people with hearing disabilities rely on, which is deaf to general public?

8362             MR. KANE:  Yes, that's right.  So it's not as high as you would expect.

8363             THE CHAIRPERSON:  Okay.


8364             And I think I heard you, Mr. Brick, say there's difficulty in getting the experience and the expertise of people who are fluent in ASL and, ultimately, with LSQ, in Canada, as well.

8365             Has there been any research done in computerizing sign so that you leapfrog the human relations component of it?  Because once it's computerized, it's the same for everybody.  I mean, may you need voice activation and the problem with voice activation, to some extent, may be the linguistics of it, but I would tend to think that, once you computerize this, it becomes an awful lot easier and an awful lot cheaper.

8366             So where is that technology right now?

8367             MR. BRICK (interpreted):  We are starting to look into that, but that type of technology is light‑years away, compared to voice recognition.

8368             Now, understand that if we have that model, we would have to have hand movement recognition, facial recognition, and all of that.  It's not just something that could see a sign.  There's a lot of grammar that's involved and a lot of analysis on our body language that's involved in that.


8369             We need computer software that can handle sign to voice and voice to sign.  So there must be a camera, there must be all of that involved.  It's pretty intensive.

8370             THE CHAIRPERSON:  So it's light‑years away?

8371             MR. KANE:  Hopefully not light‑years, you know.  It's something we are interested in investing in.  And we all know the nature of technology, it's exponential.

8372             So there's a lot of work being done in voice to text and a lot of work being done in text voice, and that's interesting, as well, and the more work that's done in those areas then the closer we will get to developing that sort of technology and bring the cost down for everybody.

8373             THE CHAIRPERSON:  Well, I mean, that's what I was looking at:  is whether we can leapfrog technology here and become the first in the world by Canada adapting this and moving forward and trying to develop that new technology, rather than living with today's technology.


8374             MR. KANE:  In those terms, we are light‑years away.  We are not close to having a prototype of anything like that, if that's what you are asking.  You wouldn't be able to solve this problem, I don't think, in the next five, maybe even 10 years with that kind of technology.  So we might be at least a decade off, but that's a major guesstimate.

8375             THE CHAIRPERSON:  People like Microsoft and those types of folks aren't doing this right now in labs?

8376             MR. KANE:  You know, I think there's a lot of R and D done on facial recognition technology, voice to text, text to voice, but you have to bring it all together.  Certainly there's not a prototype, that I'm aware of or that I'm aware of anyone in my company being aware of, that would come close to serving this need.  But we are interested in it, I think.

8377             THE CHAIRPERSON:  You haven't spoken to the people at Microsoft about whether they are engaging in this type of research in labs?

8378             MR. KANE:  We don't know of anything like that, no.  It would be interesting, but I don't think ‑‑ I don't think we are close to being there.  Because I think if they were doing that, we would probably know about it.

8379             THE CHAIRPERSON:  Okay.

8380             My last question is one that I'm not sure you can answer, but probably your legal counsel, so it may have to be an undertaking.


8381             In paragraph 30, you try and help us by identifying the source of funds for this, and you indicate in here that, in the second sentence, there's a

"...recurring annual contribution from the deferral account of nearly $100 million; and, therefore, if you take the 5 percent, there's a $5‑million flow that could be used for accessibility."  (As read)

8382             Then you go on and say:

"It would be nice if it could be more than that."  (As read)

8383             Can you folks undertake, because I'm not sure you are capable of doing that with the expertise you ‑‑ maybe you are, but how you came to the conclusion there's a recurring annual contribution of $100 million coming out of the deferral account, for us?  Because I am not aware of one, but that doesn't mean it's wrong.

8384             MR. KANE:  Well, you would probably know about it.  We will undertake, absolutely.

8385             THE CHAIRPERSON:  Okay.

8386             Those are all my questions, other than ‑‑ I guess there's one more I have got.


8387             You say in here repeatedly that the resources or the source of funding for this should come from the ILECs, and you repeated the word "ILEC".  It's a Canadian term, obviously.  It's the incumbent local exchange carrier.

8388             I'm just wondering why you didn't broaden it out to all parties providing telecommunication services, which in this country would include new entrants and competitors, as well.  I mean, why did you focus primarily on incumbents?  And maybe you can tell us what's happening in the U.S.

8389             MR. BRICK (interpreted):  You might remember in my presentation we suggested that all phone companies and broadband providers be included in this.  In the States, it used to be limited only to the common carriers, phone companies, but we have now expanded that to include VoIP providers, voice‑over‑IP providers.  And we are also trying to discuss whether or not we should expand the contributors to broadband providers, as well.


8390             If we want to do the right thing here, I suggest that you have an all‑inclusive funding mechanism, because you could have contributors from all of the people that actually have a role in the relay services, whether it be broadband providers, ISPs, voice‑over‑IP providers or common carriers.

8391             MR. KANE:  I think it displays our learning curve.

8392             THE CHAIRPERSON:  No, and that's fine.  I'm trying to learn as well here, and that's why I'm trying to understand.

8393             So are you saying that the Time Warners of the world, the Comcasts, the Cox's of the world, all do provide this service to their customers and also feed into the NECA contribution regime?

8394             MR. BRICK (interpreted):  To the extent that they provide voice‑over‑IP services, yes.

8395             THE CHAIRPERSON:  Okay, voice‑over‑IP services.

8396             What about broadband telephony services, cable telephone service, do they offer service, as well, and do they pay contribution into NECA?

8397             MR. BRICK (interpreted):  Right now the answer is no, but that's what we are discussing, trying to figure out if we can expand to include them, as well.  So the answer to your question is not yet.

8398             THE CHAIRPERSON:  Okay.  Thank you, those are my questions.

8399             Commissioner Denton first.


8400             COMMISSIONER DENTON:  Good afternoon, gentlemen.

8401             I looked up the term "functionally equivalent" on the net and find it in the Americans with Disabilities Act.  I see by a probably superficial reading that it applies to telecommunications devices for the deaf.  That led me to the question:  what is the basis of statutory or other authority for the regulations that have set up your service?

8402             MR. BRICK (interpreted):  The ADA, Title IV, that includes the functional equivalent language.  What that does is authorize the FCC to develop regulatory standards to set up an efficient system to provide functionally equivalent access.

8403             Now, the FCC has established different regulations to manage the industry, itself, under the authorization of Title IV of the ADA.

8404             COMMISSIONER DENTON:  Did that section you referred to expand the meaning of "functionally equivalent" to include the kind of video relay service that you provide?


8405             MR. BRICK (interpreted):  That section says the FCC has to do whatever is necessary to establish functionally equivalent relay services.  And that was passed in 1990.  At the time, video relay wasn't an option.  That type of technology wasn't available.

8406             So 10 years ago, the technology was just starting to be developed.  Through different petitions it has been made known to the FCC that video relay service is more functionally equivalent to what the hearing population has.

8407             There is specific language in the ADA that says they have to keep up with changing technology developments and so forth to ensure the ongoing stability of functional equivalency, so, therefore, that includes VRS and IP relay services.

8408             COMMISSIONER DENTON:  Is there a succinct statement somewhere, either in FCC or elsewhere, that would explain the evolution of functional equivalents?  And could you get that to us if you have it?

8409             MR. BRICK (interpreted):  I would be happy to do that.

8410             COMMISSIONER DENTON:  Thank you.

8411             That's my questions.

8412             THE CHAIRPERSON:  Thank you.

8413             Commissioner Lamarre.

8414             COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  Thank you, Mr. Chair.


8415             Thank you for being here today.

8416             First, I will take you back to paragraph 31 of your submission, where you were with Mr. Katz a few minutes ago, and the estimates between $50 million and $100 million.

8417             I understand that when you come up with an order‑of‑magnitude estimate like this, you do have to make assumptions.  And, Mr. Kane, even in your presentation, you alluded to it.  You even gave a series of examples of such assumptions.

8418             Yet, in the footnote that relates to this paragraph, the assumptions that I see there basically only relate to the number of people who would be using the service.  So I was wondering if you could undertake to provide the list of all assumptions that went into coming up with that figure?

8419             MR. KANE:  Sure.  I think what we can provide for you is what we know from the U.S. market.  And, you know, I think that there are a lot of unknowns in the Canadian market, and, as we have gone through our learning curve, we realize more and more what we don't know and what we need to find out.  So we would be excited to work with you to learn more ‑‑

8420             COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  So I would like to ‑‑


8421             MR. KANE:  ‑‑ about the Canadian market.

8422             COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  Sorry.  I would like to actually know two sides of the coins, what you do know about the American market ‑‑

8423             MR. KANE:  Sure.

8424             COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  ‑‑ and what you do feel comfortable with the Canadian market ‑‑

8425             MR. KANE:  Sure.

8426             COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  ‑‑ and what assumptions you are not capable of making because you are not familiar with the Canadian market.

8427             MR. KANE:  Absolutely.  Fair enough, we will get that to you.

8428             COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  You also stated that the start‑up costs would be minimum.

8429             I would like to know if you would be able to provide to us what would be included in the start‑up costs?  And what do you mean by "minimum"?  Is the $50 million, $200 million what you consider to be minimum, as a start‑up cost?

8430             MR. KANE:  No, that's not a start‑up cost, that's to ‑‑

8431             COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  As a recurring cost ever year?


8432             MR. KANE:  Yes.  The start‑up cost really doesn't exist. I mean, we would have a little bit of costs on our end, but we would be able to get the service up and running tomorrow.  We already do it.  So there's no real start‑up costs where there would be a major need for contribution.

8433             Of course, we would have to study that further, as we understand more and more the market, but as far as we are concerned we could just turn it on without any start‑up costs.  It's really just marginal costs.

8434             COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  So am I correct in stating that, basically, no new infrastructure is involved in starting up the system if we were ask GoAmerica to undertake such a service here?

8435             MR. BRICK (interpreted):  The answer is no, but that's not an honest answer.  We would need to set up a call centre here.  We would want to hire interpreters that are fluent in LSQ and train them.  That's part of the process.

8436             But, again, that's minimal compared to what it could have been, because, again, we have done all of the heavy lifting, as far as technology goes, in setting up standards.  But we could turn on the switch and be ready to go tomorrow.


8437             COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  You are ready to turn the switch and go head tomorrow with ASL, but not with LSQ, is that what I'm hearing?

8438             MR. BRICK (interpreted):  Correct.

8439             COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  Okay, I understand then.

8440             And I'm glad that you also understand that there need to be LSQ call centres established.  And, quite frankly, I take your point that most francophones in Canada are living in Quebec and that's probably where you would go to try and set up that centre, though my fellow commissioner from the Maritimes may try to tell you that there's also quite a number of interesting francophones in Moncton, New Brunswick.

8441             But I would just like make the comment that I don't want you to underestimate the importance of providing a French service all across Canada, as francophones are scattered across Canada and that there are interprovince links that take place daily.


8442             MR. BRICK (interpreted):  Right.  As a person who has experienced using a minority language, I understand the importance of recognizing a minority language.  I speak that on a personal level.  We are committed to ensuring that it's equal for the minority languages.

8443             And what I heard in your comment is really emphasizing the importance of having a national relay service because most LSQ interpreters will be near or in Quebec.  And if we have, you know, provincial‑by‑provincial services, it's going to be harder to provide those LSQ interpreting services at the level that would be equal to an ASL to English service.

8444             COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  Your point is duly noted.

8445             I have one last question now, and that's probably more also a legal question.  You may want to undertake to reply.

8446             As an American‑based company, do you see any issues related to Canadian ownership rules in providing this service in Canada?

8447             MR. KANE:  Whatever issues they may be, we will address them if it comes to fruition.  You know, there are plenty of American companies that set up Canadian subsidiaries, for example, or work in partnership with Canadian companies and, as we said earlier, there's already a Canadian company we work with for our other services.


8448             So we would do whatever it took to invest in Canada and make a commitment out here, and we will undertake to provide more information on that.

8449             COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  And would you be at liberty to tell me which Canadian company you are actually doing business with?  Or is that confidential information?

8450             MR. KANE:  No, we mentioned it earlier that we have a partnership with Stellar Nordia.

8451             COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  Stellar Nordia, okay.  I didn't make note of it.  Thank you.

8452             MR. KANE:  Sure.

8453             COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  Those are all my questions.  Thank you very much.

8454             THE CHAIRPERSON:  Thank you, Commissioner Lamarre.

8455             Commissioner Molnar.

8456             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  Thank you.

8457             I think my questions will be short and easy for you.

8458             Your company provides message relay, IP relay and video relay.  Is that correct?

8459             MR. KANE:  And also community interpreting services ‑‑

8460             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  Right.


8461             MR. KANE:  Yes, that's right.

8462             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  Okay.

8463             I have been under the impression that there are significant synergies created by bringing these services together.  Is that your experience?  Maybe first, and maybe we should break it out, message relay and IP relay, and then speak about further synergies, if you are also adding video relay to that mix.

8464             MR. KANE:  I think there are a lot of synergies in providing a mix of services to the same community because they, then, can attach themselves to the same brand.  There are a lot of synergies in understanding who we are serving.

8465             The most important synergy we have is the synergy between community interpreting services and the other services we provide, so between community interpreting and video relay.

8466             We put our video relay service call centres in communities where we know that people will have a need for community interpreting and we are experts at balancing those needs.

8467             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  Could I just ask you ‑‑

8468             MR. KANE:  Sure.


8469             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  ‑‑ like I wasn't clear, because, you know, there are other synergies, from a cost perspective.  From an efficient and effective delivery of these services on the cost side, are there synergies by bringing together message relay and IP relay?  Can the same group of operators meet the needs, you know, regardless of what device it's coming in on?

8470             MR. KANE:  There are synergies, and, again, the same operators ‑‑

8471             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  They are the same operators.

8472             MR. KANE:  ‑‑ for MRS and IP relay.

8473             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  Yes.

8474             MR. KANE:  Yes, they can be.

8475             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  Yes.  And video relay, are there cost synergies, cost efficiencies, to pulling those in the same group?

8476             MR. KANE:  The main synergies with video relay are between video relay and community interpreting, but that's a very important issue in the deaf community.  But those are the main synergies there.

8477             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  Okay, thank you.


8478             One of the issues I have been asking some parties about is receiving text messaging into relay centres, you know, for emergency purposes.

8479             Is that something that's done in the States?

8480             MR. BRICK (interpreted):  We provide 911 services now in the States, but we are now going through a transition period.  But the answer is for IP relay services and for VRS we use voice‑over‑IP technology to connect our consumers to the PSAPs, and we use ANI and ALI technology.

8481             How much more in detail do you want me to go?  I'm not sure.  I'm happy to give you the details if you would like them.

8482             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  I'm just thinking of a simple text message over a cellphone, you don't have a broadband connection, is that received by your relay centres?


8483             MR. BRICK (interpreted):  No.  Text and cellphones are not tied to the relay services in the States.  There are some cellphones that have instant messaging, the software is actually on the device themselves, such as AIM, and so we do provide relay services through instant messaging, and therefore we provide 911 services through that.  But as far as, like, an SMS text service, no.  That's not tied to our relay services, no.

8484             MR. KANE:  I will say this ‑‑

8485             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  So those customers would need to have a data plan, then, because it's an instant messaging, it's a broadband service?

8486             MR. BRICK (interpreted):  Yes.

8487             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  Okay.

8488             MR. KANE:  I was just going to say I will say that's an interesting idea that we can look into further.

8489             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  Just one other piece of information, if you have it ‑‑ and I don't expect you to have it, but if you could undertake, if it's available to you ‑‑ I was interested in the discussion about 500 minutes a year and boiling down to 8 minutes a day.


8490             Would you have information on the usage patterns and how they have changed within the United States ‑‑ I'm looking at the United States and not here ‑‑ how those usage patterns have changed over time, let's say the last five years, as different technologies have come on board, you know, instant messaging and so on, that have provided many options for customers, including those that are deaf and hard of hearing?

8491             So could you compare for us, you know, if it's 500 minutes now, what was it five years ago?

8492             MR. BRICK (interpreted):  I would be happy to give you the countries' numbers that are coming out from NECA.  Each company doesn't provide their specific numbers, for competitive reasons, but I can give you the nations, as a whole, because NECA tracks those total numbers.  I would be happy to submit that because that's public record.

8493             I do have some charts here that show the trends for the last seven years.  I can verbally tell you or just submit it to you.

8494             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  If you would be willing to submit it as a chart, that would be perfect.  Thank you very much.

8495             Those are my questions.

8496             THE CHAIRPERSON:  Thank you, Commissioner Molnar.

8497             I just want to follow up on this 500 minutes.


8498             When you quoted the 500 minutes in your submission, is that the actual NECA average number of minutes that are used by someone going from hearing impaired to the general public?

8499             MR. KANE:  It's an estimate tailored to what we might expect in Canada, but we can certainly get you figures, overall global figures, on usage through ‑‑

8500             THE CHAIRPERSON:  But is that 500 representative of what it is in the U.S. today?

8501             MR. KANE:  It is.  I mean, it is a good estimate.  I can't tell you for each company what the average is ‑‑

8502             THE CHAIRPERSON:  No, I understand that.

8503             MR. KANE:  Right, but I think it is a fair estimate.  But I would like to get you more information on that.

8504             THE CHAIRPERSON:  But what that tells me, if that is a fair estimate, is, last time I looked, there were 365 days in a year, 500 minutes a year is a little over one minute a day is the utilization in the U.S. for people who need to use this service and their utilization.  That was it is, two minutes a day.

8505             MR. KANE:  I think it was more ‑‑

8506             THE CHAIRPERSON:  On average.


8507             MR. KANE:  Yes.  No, I think it was more of an estimate from Canada and we will have to work more on it.  It's not an exact figure from the U.S., so you shouldn't take it as an exact figure of what usage is in the U.S.  But we can get you more info on that and work with you on that.

8508             THE CHAIRPERSON:  Could you, please?

8509             MR. KANE:  Yes.

8510             MR. BRICK (interpreted):  I have two things I would like to add.

8511             First of all, another companies is going to presenting this afternoon, Sorenson, and we have both submitted some numbers, so that might give you a better picture.  And I think the number might seem low to you, but, for example, my family, we have, you know, deaf and hearing people in our family.  Our family can sign.  We don't need relay to interpret between our family.  And the same thing with my friends, my friends sign.

8512             The only time that I need to use relay is when I call my doctor's office, when I order pizza, when I call other hearing people that don't sign.  But most of my family and friends and coworkers sign, so I don't need relay services for those types of conversations.


8513             So that's why that number may seem low to you, because I would guess that most deaf consumers have that same type of situation in their lives.

8514             THE CHAIRPERSON:  But I guess what I heard some of the parties talking about this week is that they believe this service, if available, would allow them to be more productive in society and hold jobs.  And if that's the case, they are going to be using more than one minute a day.

8515             MR. KANE:  That's right.  It's also important to keep in mind that it's an average number, so not everybody will be using it in the workplace all the time.  There are people who don't use it all, will use it very little and will use it a lot, so  ‑‑

8516             THE CHAIRPERSON:  Okay.  Well, whatever statistic you can give us, we certainly would appreciate it.

8517             MR. KANE:  Absolutely.  Yes, absolutely.

8518             THE CHAIRPERSON:  Thank you.

8519             I think those are all the question the panel...did counsel have any questions?  They do.

8520             MS LEHOUX:  Besides the chart that you will provide now, from what I understood, could you provide the responses to the undertakings by December 2nd?


8521             MR. BRICK (interpreted):  Yes.

8522             MS LEHOUX:  Thank you.

8523             MR. BRICK (interpreted):  Most of the information is public record, so it wouldn't be hard to put together.  I don't see a problem with that.  I would need to review all the undertakings, but I don't see a problem with that.

8524             MS LEHOUX:  Okay.  Thank you very much.

8525             COMMISSIONER POPE:  And one final question ‑‑ Lori Pope here ‑‑ do you provide devices, such as the mobile phones that you were mentioning earlier?

8526             MR. BRICK (interpreted):  As far as video phones, the current model in the States is that the relay companies provide the video phones, yes.  For the text relay services, no.  The customers buy the devices from the phone companies.  And the same with their broadband, they access through the web.  So they don't need special equipment for that, they just need the appropriate software.

8527             So as far as video phones go, yes, we do provide those.

8528             COMMISSIONER POPE:  And would that be part of your plan in Canada, as well, to provide those?


8529             MR. BRICK (interpreted):  I would expect that to be the case, but, again, it all depends on how the process is set up.  That's why we are recommending to have an expert consultant come in after your approve to set up a national funding plan.

8530             MS POPE:  Thank you very much.

8531             THE CHAIRPERSON:  Thank you very much.

8532             We appreciate your attendance here and your stay for the week, as well.  We hope your stay in Canada was enjoyable, and we look forward to seeing you again in Canada.

8533             MR. BRICK (interpreted):  Again, I thank you for the opportunity.

8534             MR. KANE:  Thanks for having us.  We really appreciate the opportunity.

8535             THE CHAIRPERSON:  This concludes the morning session.

8536             By my watch it's one o'clock.  I thought we would reconvene at two.  We still have three parties that we would like to get through this afternoon.

8537             Madam Secretary, have you got any other words of wisdom?


8538             THE SECRETARY:  I would just like to note that the chart that GoAmerica will be providing will be registered as Exhibit 1.

‑‑‑ Upon recessing at 1300 / Suspension à 1300

‑‑‑ Upon resuming at 1405 / Reprise à 1405

8539             THE CHAIRPERSON:  Good afternoon.  We are about to start the Friday afternoon session.

8540             Madam Secretary, do you have any opening remarks?

8541             THE SECRETARY:  Thank you, Mr. Chairman, yes.

8542             I would like to acknowledge receipt of two exhibits that were filed before the Commission.

8543             They are Council of Canadians with Disabilities Exhibit No. 1 in response to Undertaking 1, and Canadian Hearing Society Exhibit No. 1 in response to their undertaking.

8544             Also, we have prepared a summary of the 20 November undertakings for Council of Canadians with Disabilities, ARCH Disability Law Center, the Canadian Hearing Society, Rogers Communications Inc. and Citizens with Disabilities.

8545             This summary will be added to the public examination file and posted on the Commission's website shortly.


8546             I note this document to be CRTC Exhibit No. 4.

8547             We have also revised a list of the 17 November undertakings, which is CRTC Exhibit No. 1, to reflect some clarification.

8548             We will now proceed with a presentation by Sorenson Communications of Canada, ULC.

8549             Please introduce yourselves.  You then have 15 minutes for your presentation.

PRESENTATION / PRÉSENTATION

8550             MR. KANE:  Thank you.

8551             Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman, members of the Commission, my name is Greg Kane and I am counsel to Sorenson Communications of Canada, ULC.

8552             I am pleased to introduce the members of our group appearing before you this afternoon.

8553             First, on my immediate right and to your far left, is Susane Giroux.  Susane is the District Manager Canada for Sorenson Communications and is based in Vancouver.  She is trilingual, English, French and ASL.


8554             For the past 10 years Susane has also been the Treasurer of the Association of Visual Language Interpreters of Canada.  This is a nonprofit association which, among other things, lobbies with respect to working standards for interpreters, as well as providing ongoing professional development.

8555             In addition to some other areas that Susane can respond to this afternoon, she can speak on behalf of the community of interpreters.  This is one group which has been prominent in the hearing in terms of providing a superb service but really hasn't had a voice yet in the hearing.

8556             To my far left and to your right is Jason Dunn.  Jason is the Vice‑President Operations for Sorenson.  In this position he oversees all of Sorenson's video relay service and IP relay operations.  He directly oversees both the domestic United States and the international operations team for Sorenson.

8557             To my immediate left is Dave Johnson.  Dave is the Vice‑President Outreach for Sorenson.  In this position he oversees the national video relay outreach organization and strategies for the company.  He played a critical role in developing and implementing the company‑wide initiatives that evolved into the provision of Sorenson video relay service.

8558             I understand that you have a hard copy of a PowerPoint presentation, and Dave is now going to speak to that and use it as the basis for our opening statement.


8559             We know you have read our original comments in this proceeding and we do not intend to repeat that.

8560             Just for the record, I would also indicate that we have left a number of copies of the PowerPoint on the table at the back of the room.

8561             So we will now begin our presentation.

8562             Dave...?

8563             MR. JOHNSON:  Thank you.

8564             I appreciate the opportunity that we have to come and address you this morning and we appreciate very much your interest in the provision of VRS services in Canada.

8565             Obviously we have strong views as to what you should do and so I might take some liberties, but obviously being the regulatory body we hope that you would create VRS as a mandate from the CRTC.

8566             The deaf and hard of hearing population in Canada is a minority and without a body such as yourself there isn't any other group that would provide them with the opportunity to communicate in their native language.  Everyone in Canada understands how important it is to be able to communicate in your native language.


8567             That's one of the greatest things about VRS, is VRS does allow the deaf and hard of hearing to communicate visually in their native language.  Whenever they are writing in French or whether they are writing in English, they are writing in their second language.  ASL and LSQ, they are visual languages and they are really made possible now with broadband.

8568             We all know that broadband penetration in Canada is very high and so the opportunity to provide a video solution to the deaf and hard of hearing population is certainly a reality.

8569             One of the important things that I want everyone in the room to understand is that VRS is an IP technology.  It's not telephony.  So when you start considering the implications of a VRS mandate, many of the telephone companies, as they did in the United States when we were interested in getting into this business in early 2000, 2001 and 2002, we met with telephone companies and they weren't interested in introducing this offering to the deaf population because it was an IP offering.

8570             Fortunately for us, in the United States the FCC was really willing to recognize an IP company being able to come with a communication offering for the deaf and hard of hearing.


8571             So that is really what revolutionized the ability for the deaf and hard of hearing to communicate in America, was the FCC willing to take the chance to select an IP company to be able to provide the service for deaf and hard of hearing whether, it was through VRS or through IP relay.

8572             As you consider your opportunity here, you obviously have many options and providing VRS and IP relay, in my opinion, should be optional for telephone carriers.  Or you could mandate the two largest telephone carriers to provide a VRS or an IP offering.  Or you could even create a fund, as has been talked about, and it could be administered and provided to a third party so that a national program could be launched.

8573             But there are other companies, our company included, that can provide the service that have vast experience in providing this service for the deaf and hard of hearing.

8574             On page 4 we sincerely believe that VRS should be a national offering in Canada.  All TSPs should have a service fee to provide relay services for the deaf and hard of hearing.


8575             I am familiar to some extent with your MRS fund, but a lot of evolution has taken place with technology since the MRS fund was set up and we believe that it is an ideal opportunity for the CRTC to take advantage of those technologies and revisit the way the MRS fund is administered.

8576             The simple nature of VRS really supports a national program.  The one thing that has been touched on during these hearings but really needs to be understood is Sorenson ‑‑ and I will go into more detail ‑‑ the way we revolutionized the communications services for the deaf and hard of hearing is we developed a videophone.  The videophone was developed specifically for needs that were developed from our work with the deaf and hard of hearing community.

8577             We have distributed more than 100,000 videophones in the United States to various households and we are supporting a deaf to deaf network that weekly is taking millions of calls in the deaf community in the United States.


8578             As you learned earlier today, we agree with the assumption that if a deaf person has a videophone, 80 per cent of the time they are making a call to an acquaintance or a friend or someone they may have gone to college with that is deaf and the other 28 per cent of the time they are using it to engage an interpreter and make a call to a hearing individual, or a hearing person is engaging an interpreter to call a deaf individual.

8579             The significance of VRS, it is not just for the deaf community; it is for the hearing, too.  It is more convenient for a hearing person to provide services for a deaf individual or to have a business relationship, a banking relationship, a pizza delivery relationship, if they can use VRS to communicate, because with VRS a deaf individual is able to use American sign language or LSQ, their native language, to communicate through an interpreter to a hearing person at close to 200 words a minute.

8580             Currently with TTY service, the service, with latency and with typing and so forth, that communication can go at less than 40 words a minute.

8581             So frequently ‑‑ in fact, the majority of the time when a hearing person receives an individual call through MRS or through TTY in the United States, the hearing person hangs up on the deaf individual because they simply don't have the patience to go through the process of the phone call with them.


8582             We think with a national service you are going to be able to enjoy efficiencies with interpreters.  As you are familiar with our submission, Sorenson currently has call centers in Canada.  We have six.  We have more than 200 interpreters that are Sorenson employees that are currently living in Canada and hoping that they will have the opportunity to provide VRS services to citizens in Canada.

8583             We think with the national service you will be able to lower administrative costs and more of the fund that would be available to provide interpreting services would be used for the purpose of interpreting deaf individuals' calls through a national service.

8584             On page 5 you asked:  Well, whose responsibility is this?  I believe VRS is a public responsibility.  I believe you as the CRTC represent the public and it is your responsibility to evaluate this technology, the offering that is available and, if deemed a better way for the deaf to communicate, something that you should look at seriously and providing funding for.

8585             In our questions, we were asked to give different ideas of how funding could be made available to provide this service in Canada.


8586             I believe the funding obviously could be made through a government appropriation or it could be made through a levy on all of the TSPs.  And it should be all of the TSPs.  It should be the ILECs, the cell phone companies, broadband users, voiceover IP, because all of them will benefit from this service if it is available to the deaf and hard of hearing in Canada.

8587             We think the fund could be administered by the CRTC or a third party.  I know there are examples with a portable contribution system that perhaps are superior than what we might have in the United States.

8588             On page 6 I would like to talk about implementation.  Sorenson Communications is very excited to be able to participate in a trial, a VRS trial with TELUS Canada.  We plan to initiate our trial with TELUS after the first of the year, and we believe that they have selected a contractor that is worthy to provide the service in Canada.  And we believe we are worthy because of the experience that we have gained in the United States.

8589             Our trial is only for a year.  We need the CRTC to be interested in an LSQ offering.


8590             We have done a lot of research in looking at whether or not an LSQ offering could be made.  We believe an LSQ offering could be made, but so far no one is willing to come up with the type of money it would take to present or provide an LSQ offering.

8591             An LSQ offering can't just be a pilot because we need new firmware on our videophones, we need to localize all our content, our promotional material.  It can't be something that we just decide we are going to try for a few months because it would take a major investment.

8592             One of the things that we are missing today is really when you talk about providing VRS in Canada, you are talking about instead of like the United States we offer it in three languages, in Canada you would be offering it basically in four, right, because you would be offering it in hearing to deaf, in English in ASL, deaf to hearing in ASL, French LSQ to deaf and deaf through LSQ to French.

8593             So it is a complicated process and obviously it is one that is going to need financial support so that both ASL, deaf and hard of hearing individuals and LSQ individuals could have access to it in Canada.


8594             We hope and we believe that the CRTC has better access than we do to information that is available publicly through the FCC or through NECCA to adopt what is good in the U.S. regulated service and actually enhance that service with what you could adopt in Canada.

8595             Interpreters are not plentiful but they are available.  Our company, we spend millions of dollars annually in developing the interpreter pool, and we think that is something that needs to be considered when the CRTC develops a rate.  You are going to want to be able to offer that rate to a provider that is going to be in a position to develop and increase the interpreter pool, whether it is for American sign language or whether it is for LSQ.

8596             A provider, I believe, needs to make a commitment to you to grow the interpreter pool so that the shortage of interpreters that is available to the deaf community can continue to grow.

8597             As far as the role of persons with disabilities with the provider, I can tell you from our experience in the United States, if the disability community doesn't have a major role with the provider, the provider will not be successful in their offering.


8598             I can tell you from my experience in the United States, I have just under 400 deaf and hard of hearing individuals that work for me in the United States that provide technical training in the deaf and hard of hearing individual's home, that work with ISPs to work with broadband issues that deaf and hard of hearing may have in their home.

8599             So for provider to be successful in Canada, the people that are deaf and hard of hearing are going to have to have a role.

8600             When we install equipment in the United States in a deaf or hard of hearing person's home, it is done with a deaf and hard of hearing individual, and all of our training is done with deaf and hard of hearing individuals to the population.

8601             We participate in over 400 deaf and hard of hearing events a year in the United States with representatives from our company.

8602             On page 7 is the Sorenson VP 200.  It's a videophone.  Before Sorenson was a video interpreting company or a relay company, we were a technology company.  Our fame comes from video compression algorithms.

8603             Our founder was an entrepreneur and he decided that he wanted to put our video compression algorithms on a chip.  So he spent millions of dollars making a chip so that we could build our videophone.

8604             Our videophone is proprietary.  We make our videophones for about $200 and they compete with a Polycom or a Tandberg that are $3,500 to $7,500.


8605             The beauty of the service is with our videophone, you can put our videophone on an individual's television and get TV quality communication with another person if an individual has broadband.  So with a broadband connection that is 250K up and 250K down, you are able to get TV quality communications.

8606             Our Kodak engineers, I mean it's very simple.  We went in and in the visual area where a deaf individual would be using American sign language or LSQ, the compression works faster than it does with the area outside the hand area.  So we give superior video quality to the deaf and hard of hearing.

8607             We pride ourselves on the quality of our interpreters.  We have an interpreter training program.  We are opening an interpreter training ‑‑ the equivalent of an interpreter training college at our headquarters, and we are the largest employer of American sign language interpreters in the world.

8608             We have contracts with the U.S. Postal Service, the largest major employer of deaf and hard of hearing individuals in the United States.

8609             So we are excited about our video quality.  We are excited about the offering we have where we can provide reliable communication in a home with a videophone.


8610             We offer a 10‑digit numbering system.  We are distributing in the United States right now local numbers.  New Star is going to be the aggregator of all these local numbers, and what we are doing that for an enhanced 911 offering that we will start for the deaf and hard of hearing in January of 2009.

8611             The videophone enables hearing to deaf calls, offers deaf to deaf calling and the beauty of the whole videophone is someone that may not understand the complexities of a computer, how to set up a web cam and do iChat, with the videophone we put a remote in their hand.  They are able to operate a remote, just like they are able to operate their own television.

8612             So the video equipment spans the entire demographic of the deaf population and it is very easy to use.

8613             On page 8, I know everyone is interested in 911 and if there are questions about 911, Jason can answer them after the deck.


8614             We are very excited about the number of 911 calls we are processing now.  Because we own the device, we own the videophone ‑‑ we own the videophone, we own the software on the videophone.  We are getting ready to introduce location information verification on the videophone.  That offering will be released by the end of this year.

8615             So when a videophone is installed in an individual's home we take a record of where that videophone is installed.  If that videophone stays on the network, we know that the videophone hasn't been moved.  That videophone heartbeats with our core server and we know the videophone is the same place it was installed.  If the videophone goes off, either it goes off or is moved to a different location, we have a screen that is going to come back up and it's going to ask the customer to confirm the fact that the videophone is still installed at the address where it was registered to.

8616             We are providing that registration information to a PSAP to provide a faster 911 call.

8617             The information is loaded with features for the deaf and hard of hearing.  There is speed dialling.

8618             There is unique caller ID.  A deaf or hard of hearing individual can have caller ID.  If there is a person that is calling them that they don't want to receive calls from, they can create unique caller ID.  It's a flasher device so that they know when the phone is ringing when they are in the room.


8619             There is missed calls, sign mail.  We can leave a sign message to them with an American sign language interpreter.

8620             But probably I can't emphasize enough is it allows them to converse in their native language and the interpreter, during an emergency call, if a deaf individual calls 911 we offer ‑‑ and we are not reimbursed for this service.  But we let the interpreter stay on the line so when the emergency service personnel come to the residence or the place of business or wherever the emergency is, there is an American sign language interpreter there that can help either the ambulance or medical services or the police with whatever the emergency is.

8621             Then we have a relationship with a PSAP so that we are dispatching the emergency personnel from the closest possible location to the emergency.

8622             On page 9, I don't want to speak for your business, but obviously we believe Canada needs regulatory measures.  We hope that you as the CRTC would have access goals; that you would have a goal for providers to provide access to this technology to the deaf and hard of hearing in Canada.


8623             One of the goals we have as a company, by 2010 we want everyone in the United States to have access to VRS services.  It doesn't mean they are going to use them, but we want them to have access to them.  That is a goal that we have as a company.

8624             We hope that you would mandate all TSPs to support funding so that this offering could be made available to all the citizens in Canada that are deaf and hard of hearing.  There is obviously language issues here.  We hope that you will mandate that VRS is available in English and LSQ.  We want you to have a speed of answer requirement.  We want to have hours of operation.  We think you should have video standards.  We think you should adopt a videophone and we think you should adopt a 911 offering.

8625             We are certainly comfortable, if we are fortunate enough to be able to provide these services in Canada, to comply to whatever reporting metrics were required.

8626             On page 10, just to give you the one minute overview of Sorenson Communications, our business has exploded in the United States.  Our company has grown from a few dozen to almost 5,000 today.  We have 5,000 employees working for Sorenson Communications.


8627             We boast our service with the fact that we believe we provide the deaf and hard of hearing with the most qualified interpreters that are available, that we have the best technology in the world today that can be provided for the deaf community, and that we have an outreach program that trains and educates the deaf and hard of hearing about how they can change their lives with this service.

8628             They can get better jobs.  They can communicate better with hearing individuals.  They can communicate with their kids if their kids are away from school.

8629             In my cell phone I can put a speed dial and I can call someone deaf from my mobile phone to someone that's deaf in their home.

8630             We have 24/7 support.  We have over 90 deaf and hard of hearing individuals that are offering 24/7 support for all of our customers, and we have a very aggressive training program to provide career opportunities for the deaf and hard of hearing individuals that live in the United States.

8631             On page 11, we are thrilled that we are able to participate in a pilot with TELUS and we are thrilled with the opportunity that you gave them to take a portion of the money that they are getting from the deferral fund to provide a pilot in Canada.


8632             We think that is going to give us a lot of valuable information to be able to assess what the opportunity is for the deaf and hard of hearing community in Canada.  Quite frankly, I don't look forward to the day that we go through this pilot and we tell these Canadian citizens that participated in the pilot that they can no longer have VRS in Canada.

8633             So I hope that as we go through this pilot that this offering can be continued to them.

8634             This service works.  We have years of experience.  We process millions of calls and we integrate the feature requests we get from the deaf community in our videophone on a regular basis.  We have a team of engineers.  We push new firmware to our videophone three to four times a year that changes the way the videophone functions and provides more features to the deaf and hard of hearing community.

8635             I can just speak from limited experience in Canada.  We have received more than 1,000 applications from different households throughout Canada to have VRS service and because the offering isn't available right now, we haven't been able to fulfil those requests.  So we hope that there is someone out there that will look towards the needs that the deaf and hard of hearing have in Canada.


8636             MR. KANE:  Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  We welcome any questions.

8637             THE CHAIRPERSON:  Thank you very much.

8638             I will ask Commissioner Lamarre to start the questioning.

8639             COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  Merci, Monsieur le Président.

8640             Thank you for being here today and let us benefit from your hands on experience with VRS.

8641             I must say that your presentation this afternoon is making it an obligation for me to reshuffle my questions, because you have answered quite a bit of them as you went through your presentation, but at the same time you created new ones.  That means that we are both going to be a little bit in trouble because I am going to have to do a little bit more ad lib than I wish I would.  But hopefully we will get through this.

8642             Let's start with the trial you are going to be putting in place for TELUS in Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver.  I would like to find out a little bit more about that, so I will just start by throwing out a question to you and maybe we can build on that.


8643             You are saying it is going to be available for people from Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver.  So am I to understand that whoever lives in a certain urban area within Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver, they are going to be able to communicate between those different cities?

8644             MR. JOHNSON:  That's right.  I just want to explain that we are a contractor for TELUS.  We are operating off a scope of work that we bid on.  We went through a procurement process with TELUS.  It was about a year, the process.  But they have an amount of money for a trial that they had set aside that they want to stay within.

8645             Unfortunately for us and for everyone, there is a scope limitation to how big the trial is.  It has been decided that it would be most effective in those three population centers.

8646             COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  The trial will last, you said starting January 1, 2009 and it will last for a year.  Did I understand?

8647             MR. JOHNSON:  Yes.  That's correct.


8648             COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  Surely you must, either yourself or TELUS, but let's speak about yourself for now, you must have taken some steps to make the deaf and hard of hearing community aware that these trials are coming so that you can have people trying your system.

8649             MR. JOHNSON:  Yes, I'm in a little bit of a problem there.

8650             I mean, the procurement process with TELUS ended about 10 days ago, you know, and so we are in a contract period.  The contracts are at our attorneys and at TELUS' attorneys.  We do have a Letter of Intent.

8651             But yes, our goal is to start in January and end next December.

8652             COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  Okay.

8653             I'm going to go back to not quite ad lib.

8654             In your submission you mentioned that you currently have ‑‑ and that was prior to you winning this bid with TELUS.  You have developed five interpretation centers, ASL interpretation centers in Canada; a sixth one, at the time you make the submissions to the Commission, almost established in Halifax.

8655             So is the center in Halifax now established?

8656             MR. DUNN:  Yes, the Halifax Center is up and running.


8657             COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  It is up and running.  From what I understand, you have actually gone out and established those interpretation centers in Canada to service your clientele in the U.S.

8658             MR. JOHNSON:  I think the demand for VRS is large and, you know, obviously we hope that there will be an opportunity in Canada some day.  But right now we do have VRS demand in the United States that we can have Canadian citizens have fulltime employment with Sorenson and fulfil demand that we are getting from the United States.

8659             But I want to say in the same sentence that all of our interpreters that are in Canada, their first choice would be able to provide VRS interpreting for Canadian citizens.

8660             MR. DUNN:  Just to add to that, I would also want to let you know that with the trial with TELUS, one of these Canadian centers has been chosen so our Canadian interpreters will actually be serving the deaf and hard of hearing communities that we will be going into.  So the switch will be done and it will be provided by Canadian interpreters.


8661             COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  Quite frankly, my question ‑‑ I'm not really worried about the effect that, you know, we have Canadian people here working for services in the U.S., but I was really trying to get at the availability of interpreters.

8662             Honestly, if you felt you had to come north of the border to hire some interpreters, there must have been a shortage in the U.S.

8663             MR. JOHNSON:  Well, interpreters are not plentiful.  As far as when you start talking about interpreters, we create more interpreters, more qualified interpreters, our company, than any educational system or any other public entity by taking them into an immersion program.  We call it a VIP program, and we turn out hundreds of newly qualified interpreters annually.

8664             Quite frankly, the interpreters in Canada have been underemployed.  These are opportunities, job opportunities that weren't available to them before.  We don't take them away from community interpreting.  We provide them an opportunity to have a fulltime job in the profession of their choice.


8665             MR. DUNN:  Also to add to that, we have also increased the interpreting pool by 8 per cent already by putting them in these immersion programs.  These individuals that come out of the ITP programs, we have been able to put them in the immersion programs and we have increased the interpreting pool by 8 per cent already within these centers that we utilize their services.

8666             COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  I'm sorry, you used an acronym there.  You talked about the ITP program?

8667             MR. DUNN:  Yes, it is an interpreter training program.  They will graduate from an interpreter training program.

8668             COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  This program is being offered by...?

8669             MR. DUNN:  The local community colleges, Douglas Community College, Nova Scotia community colleges, the community colleges within the respective provinces.

8670             COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  How long does this program last, like you know from start to finish if, you don't fail any classes?

8671             MR. DUNN:  I'm going to let Susane respond to that, because she herself is the interpreter.  So she has been through the process and she would be better equipped to answer that question.


8672             MS GIROUX:  Depending on which province you are in depends on the length of the interpreting program.  The one in Vancouver is two years; the one in Halifax is two years.  There is one in Toronto as well.  There is a new one in Edmonton as well.  So they range from two to four years.

8673             COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  They range from two to four years, okay.

8674             The prerequisite for that, is it a previous college degree in linguistics or other ‑‑

8675             MS GIROUX:  Most interpreting programs, a prerequisite would be, you know, you need to be able to communicate functionally in American sign language before you get in.

8676             COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  Okay.  So is it fair to say that the statement that you have made in paragraph 15 of your initial submissions to the Commission ‑‑ you stated that:

"The Commission should not consider the availability of qualified interpreters to be an obstacle to the introduction of VRS in Canada."  (As read)

8677             It may not be an obstacle to the introduction of VRS in Canada, but it is definitely an issue that needs to be addressed on an ongoing basis.


8678             MR. JOHNSON:  I would agree with that, but we believe it is a problem that if we were the provider it would be our problem.  It could be done jointly with an educational system to create more interpreters.

8679             Right now there are interpreters in Canada and, you know, evidence of that is the number that we have been able to bring into our company.  We know there might not be an abundance of LSQ interpreters.  We do believe there are LSQ interpreters out there that could support a VRS system, and there are many measures that we could take together in making those interpreters available to the deaf and hard of hearing and actually increasing the number that are in that pool of interpreters with the VRS offering.

8680             COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  Okay, name two.  You said there are a number of measures you could put in place.

8681             MR. JOHNSON:  It could be hours of operation.  It could be hours of the day VRS is available to the deaf and hard of hearing that were either fluent in ASL or LSQ.  It could be the days of the week.

8682             VRS in the initial stages in the United States was available five days a week.  It wasn't available 24/7.

8683             So all of those are things that can gauge interpreter usage, the hours of operation of the service.


8684             MR. DUNN:  Also with the training of getting these interpreters, the immersion process definitely, as we all know, in learning a new language immersion is going to be critical.  But with that immersion process they also have a mentor sitting right next to them to help them through that process, which also gets them to the status that they need to be to where they can go off on their own and become self‑sufficient in that area.

8685             COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  Yes...?

8686             MR. JOHNSON:  Yes.  It's hard to explain to you, but it's almost ‑‑ again, it's part of this way we have revolutionized the deaf and hard of hearing community.

8687             You can imagine someone that is learning American sign language without VRS, it takes them a long time to improve their skills because the opportunities that they have available to them may be limited.  They might be going and working for someone that is deaf and hard of hearing two hours a day and then they might not have another job for three or four days.

8688             It's difficult for them to immerse themselves in the deaf community.


8689             With VRS, they are taking different types of calls all the time and so they can sit with a mentor and they can get up to speed in the language very quickly.

8690             MS GIROUX:  I am only going to speak for my community in Vancouver where, you know, three years ago there wasn't enough work for anybody to have a fulltime job interpreting.  People worked part‑time interpreting and part‑time in retail or doing something else, and now my community can work part‑time interpreting in the community and part‑time in VRS.  You know, we can actually work fulltime doing what we went to school for.

8691             Additionally, I have seen people come back to interpreting who left the profession because they couldn't make a living at it.  They have come back and gone into our mentorship program to get their skills back up and then they go back out into the community and work part‑time for us.

8692             COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  So basically what you are saying is that even though there might be some recruitment issues, once the jobs are there then the interest of the professionals that actually have the skills to occupy those jobs will be there, too.

8693             I'm going to stay on the LSQ subject here for a little while.


8694             Forget that you do have a trial coming up with ASL in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, forget you have a business relationship with TELUS.

8695             If I were to come to you and ask you what it would take to be able to make a trial with LSQ between Montréal, Moncton and Winnipeg, let's say, take me through the steps of what you would need to put in place to be able to do that.

8696             MR. JOHNSON:  Okay, thank you.  Many of these things we did with TELUS.  The first thing I would ask you, do you want the videophone interface to be in French?

8697             COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  Yes.

8698             MR. JOHNSON:  Do you want our licence agreement to be in French?

8699             COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  Yes.

8700             MR. JOHNSON:  And so when you start getting into those things and we develop a scope of work ‑‑ and I understand you want the same thing in LSQ that you have in English, then when I don't have today to be able to give that answer to you is I would need to know how long it would take me to localize everything I have in English and push a firmware to our videophone in French.


8701             But at the same time, it is always going to be scope, time and money and knowing that there is a long‑term commitment to LSQ.

8702             So do I think I could do it in a year?  Absolutely.

8703             COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  Okay.

8704             You mentioned that currently you are providing the service in three languages in the U.S., so can you expand on that.  I'm not sure I understood what you meant.

8705             Are you saying you are offering it in English, ASL and Spanish?  Is that what you are saying?

8706             MR. DUNN:  Yes, we are.  But like you alluded to, with the videophones it is showing up in English, and so we do not have the Spanish translation on there.

8707             So if a deaf individual does want to call in, they will call through and they will have to request a Spanish interpreter.

8708             COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  Okay.  The difference being that Spanish is not an official language in the U.S., but French is one in Canada.

8709             Can you tell me what is your approach to consultation with communities that you serve for provision of those video relay services?


8710             MR. JOHNSON:  Absolutely.  At the same time, I need to give you a little background.

8711             In Canada we don't have an official role with the deaf community, and we have made a conscious decision as a business not to incite a riot with the deaf community.  So we have consciously avoided the deaf community, hoping that at some point in the future we could be a provider in Canada.

8712             But our success, it is critical to be involved in the deaf community.  We have a whole division of our company that integrates and works with deaf schools, deaf universities, deaf community groups.

8713             We have a consumer policy board that is complete with deaf individuals, prominent leaders of the deaf community in the United States that advise us on policies and procedures in dealing with the deaf community.

8714             We have members of the deaf community on our senior management team with our company.  We have town hall meetings.  We have open houses at our interpreting centers.

8715             You know, it is from your smallest picnic with the deaf organization in a small community center to working with a nationally recognized deaf association.


8716             MR. DUNN:  We have had three town hall meetings here in Canada.  We have had one in Halifax, here in Ottawa and then also in Edmonton where we have had our Vice‑President of Community Affairs go to those and also talk with these individuals in these town hall meetings about VRS and what it does entail.

8717             COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  Okay.  Well, I'm a bit confused with what you just said and your introduction saying the background.

8718             Did I hear you, Mr. Johnson, say that you consciously decided to avoid the deaf community in Canada and now Mr. Dunn is saying that he has had town hall meetings in Halifax and ‑‑

8719             MR. JOHNSON:  Well, that's fair.

8720             COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  Unconfuse me.

8721             MR. JOHNSON:  Yes, let me clarify.

8722             So we have had to have town hall meetings because of the interpreting centers that we are opening.  We need to make sure the deaf community has an understanding of the commitment Sorenson has to create more interpreters in the community.  So we have to have those.


8723             We don't have outreach events in Canada.  If I went to an outreach event in Canada, for instance if I went to a deaf day in Toronto or a deaf day in Calgary from Sorenson Communications and put up a booth, I would leave with 2,500 applications of people that wanted our service.

8724             COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  Okay, that's the point.

8725             MR. JOHNSON:  Yes.  And I don't have a way to tell them why we don't have it here.

8726             COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  Yes.  Then they are going to say ‑‑

8727             MR. JOHNSON:  Yes, then they get upset.

8728             COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  They get upset, yes, because ‑‑ okay.  I understand why you are doing it that way.  I'm not saying whether I agree or not.  I'm just saying I understand.

8729             Do you have or do you know if there are any quality of service standards that exist as far as monitoring the performance, I would say your service including interpretation, if they exist; and if they do exist, you know, how they are being enforced.

8730             MS GIROUX:  Each of our center managers always plugs in with our interpreters and watches them, watches their work.


8731             We also get feedback from our callers themselves.  So they are able to submit feedback and if they ever have a problem with an interpreter, that problem is forwarded to the interpreter's manager and it is addressed.

8732             We also strongly encourage all of our Canadian interpreters to be members of the Association of Visual Language Interpreters of Canada, who have a strong code of ethics and guidelines for professional conduct.  In that code of ethics and guidelines for professional conduct ongoing professional development is expected.

8733             We also encourage the interpreters to seek Canadian certification.

8734             As well, our American counterpart, the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, they also have a certification process and the interpreters in Canada, we encourage them to get both of them, not just the one.

8735             COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  Okay.  Is there a different certification for interpreters that speak ASL and those that speak LSQ?

8736             MS GIROUX:  At this time we don't have a certification for French LSQ interpreters.  It is unfortunate.

8737             COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  It is unfortunate.

8738             MS GIROUX:  Yes.


8739             COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  You had mentioned in your presentation that originally Sorenson was a technology company specialized in video compression techniques.  Then you introduced us to the videophone.  We had the slide and we saw what it looked like.

8740             Any mobile videophone on the drawing table currently?

8741             MR. JOHNSON:  We spend millions of dollars a year on engineering and currently we are in our second version of our videophone, our second generation.  We have a third generation planned.

8742             We are looking at the opportunities that are available with a mobile device and we are looking at other applications that can enhance the opportunity for the deaf to communicate ‑‑ and I'm sorry to use this word ‑‑ at a functionally equivalent level.

8743             I use that because of ADA language.

8744             But obviously our goal now as a company is focused on services for the deaf and hard of hearing.  We believe we are uniquely qualified to keep a device in their home, give them a device as they are on the go and then help them with communication in an office environment.


8745             COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  You also mentioned that the VRS technology is IP‑based and since you are video compression specialists you would nonetheless need, no matter how much compression you are doing, to have a broadband accent in order to benefit from the service.

8746             MR. JOHNSON:  You are absolutely right.  Although this doesn't mean very much to you, but we are in AT&T's top 10 best customers west of the Mississippi in the United States.  So all of our centers are equipped with DS3s.

8747             So you can imagine the broadband network that we have created for a video over IP offering.

8748             COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  But that also means that if you do not have broadband access you cannot have access to VRS.

8749             MR. JOHNSON:  That's right, yes.  The only offering ‑‑ if you don't have broadband access, you were really stuck with either an MRS offering or an IP relay text offering.

8750             COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  If I may ask ‑‑ and if that is confidential corporate information you will let me know, or your lawyer will let you know.


8751             You mentioned you currently have over 200 ASL interpreters in Canada.  How many do you have in the U.S. working for you?

8752             MR. JOHNSON:  I think it would be fair to say it is over 4,000.

8753             COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  You also mentioned that you have at least 400, or approximately 400, people working for you who are either deaf or hard of hearing.

8754             What is it in percentage of your total workforce?

8755             MR. JOHNSON:  Well, unfortunately having interpreters will skew that.

8756             COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  Well, okay, if you tell me it's including ‑‑

8757             MR. DUNN:  It would be about 8 per cent.

8758             MR. JOHNSON:  It would be what?

8759             MR. DUNN:  About 8 per cent.

8760             MR. JOHNSON:  8 per cent.

8761             COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  If you exclude the interpreters?

8762             MR. JOHNSON:  If you exclude the interpreters it would be much higher if you excluded ‑‑


8763             MR. DUNN:  No, that's with interpreters.

8764             MR. JOHNSON:  Oh, that's with interpreters, yes.  8 per cent.

8765             COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  So 8 per cent of your ‑‑

8766             MR. JOHNSON:  Entire workforce.

8767             COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  400 is 8 per cent of your entire workforce?

8768             MR. DUNN:  Give or take a per cent.

8769             MR. JOHNSON:  Yes.  Our workforce is a little higher than 4,000, but I just wanted to give you a range.

8770             COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  Okay.  So basically most of your workforce is made out of interpreters.

8771             MR. JOHNSON:  That is correct.

8772             COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  And engineers who are designing those interesting phones.

8773             MR. JOHNSON:  You know, still the service ‑‑ and this was a question you had with others today.


8774             You know, the largest cost in providing VRS is the interpreters.  These interpreters, you can't underestimate the skills they have and they don't come cheap.  Our pay scales for interpreters are not typical pay scales that people would normally get if they were working in a call center.

8775             I mean, these are highly skilled professionals and we compensate them as such.

8776             COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  Point taken.

8777             Mr. Kane, I think I am going to put the question to you that I asked this morning of GoAmerica.

8778             Sorenson being a U.S.‑based company, do you see any issues related to the ownership requirements in Canada?

8779             MR. KANE:  Potential issues, Commissioner Lamarre, but our position is that they do not have to be a Canadian.  They can operate in Canada as a non‑Canadian.

8780             COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  Would you be able to table in writing for us your legal opinion on this?

8781             MR. KANE:  I would have to get instructions in order to do that.

8782             At this point, that is the conclusion, and the analysis we would have to leave to my client, in terms of whether they would like to file that.


8783             COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  So I will put the question to you, Mr. Johnson.  Would you be willing to table with us the legal opinion you received on this?

8784             MR. JOHNSON:  I think that's fair.  Sure, we will do that.

8785             COMMISSIONER LAMARRE:  Thank you.

8786             Those are my questions.  Thank you very much.

8787             THE CHAIRPERSON:  Thank you, Commissioner Lamarre.

8788             I just want to understand how this service works.  If I live in Bellingham, Washington, and I need the service, do I call up my phone company, or do I come to you direct?

8789             MR. JOHNSON:  If you were living in Washington, hopefully I would find you.  And, if you were deaf and hard‑of‑hearing, and used American Sign Language to communicate, and paid for your broadband network service, I would offer you a video phone, and I would send someone to your home and install the video phone and train you on how to use it.

8790             THE CHAIRPERSON:  So you would offer me a video phone, and I would buy it?

8791             MR. JOHNSON:  We give them out free.


8792             THE CHAIRPERSON:  You give them out free.

8793             So, now, I am living in Bellingham, Washington, and I have one of these video phones free.  What are my commitments to you?

8794             MR. JOHNSON:  There is no formal commitment, but we hope ‑‑ and you have to understand that this is under the way it is built in the United States.  There might be variations of that for Canada that would be better, but I can tell you that, in the United States, I can only hope that, when you needed an interpreter, you would use my service.

8795             THE CHAIRPERSON:  How do you make money?

8796             MR. JOHNSON:  When I submit the number of minutes that you used an interpreter to NECA in the United States, they reimburse me for the number of minutes that you engaged an interpreter.

8797             THE CHAIRPERSON:  So 100 percent of your revenues ‑‑

8798             MR. DUNN:  Just to clarify, once the interpreter is engaged by that individual, minutes don't start.  There have to be three parties connected.


8799             When you have the hearing individual, the interpreter and the deaf individual communicating, that is when the minutes start.  Once that third party, whether the hearing individual or deaf individual, disconnects, that's when the minutes stop.

8800             We are reimbursed for the minutes that we interpreted.

8801             THE CHAIRPERSON:  So 100 percent of your revenues come from NECA.

8802             MR. JOHNSON:  That's not true, but the majority of our revenues for our company come from NECA ‑‑ a large part.

8803             THE CHAIRPERSON:  Where does the rest come from?

8804             MR. JOHNSON:  We have other contracts.  We also do a VRI service.  We also have an agreement with the U.S. postal service to provide services for their deaf and hard‑of‑hearing.

8805             THE CHAIRPERSON:  Okay.  So I am now in Washington State, in Bellingham, and you have found me and you have given me one of your VP‑200s, and I have to connect to use your service.  I connect through my IP network?

8806             MR. JOHNSON:  You are using your IP network to connect to Sorenson.

8807             THE CHAIRPERSON:  And it's a standard broadband network.


8808             MR. JOHNSON:  Hi‑speed.  We require ‑‑

8809             The beauty of Sorenson is, we can give you pretty good quality, about 156, 175K up, 156, 175K down, but we require 256 both ways for an installation.

8810             THE CHAIRPERSON:  So I now decide to move 50 miles north to Vancouver.

8811             MR. JOHNSON:  Yes.

8812             THE CHAIRPERSON:  I have your product.  Why can't I use it?

8813             I connect to TELUS' hi‑speed broadband service, and I use your service.  What stops me from using it?

8814             MR. JOHNSON:  I could go into detail, but the service has evolved, and now we are hard‑coding a number when it gets installed, and we know when it has moved from an IP address.

8815             So if we learn that that has occurred, and if you called someone in the United States, we would process the call.  If you called someone in Canada, we would throw it out.

8816             THE CHAIRPERSON:  But if I were in Bellingham, Washington, and I made a call to Vancouver, you wouldn't have thrown it out.


8817             MR. JOHNSON:  No, it's legal.  It is a legal NECA‑reimbursable call.

8818             MR. DUNN:  As long as one side of the call is residing in the United States, we can reimburse for that.

8819             THE CHAIRPERSON:  So it's based on your ability to identify the IP address.

8820             MR. JOHNSON:  That's correct.

8821             THE CHAIRPERSON:  And if I am able to massage that IP address ‑‑

8822             MR. JOHNSON:  There is no question, it's not perfect, but there are regulations coming, and there are some unique things that we can do with the video phone that are going to be able to limit the fraud.

8823             THE CHAIRPERSON:  The only reason it is being limited is because, if it wasn't limited, you would have someone outside of the United States of America partaking in a contribution regime that is funded by American companies.

8824             MR. JOHNSON:  Yes.  We perform our best efforts to make sure that doesn't happen, but it is each carrier's responsibility to do that.


8825             THE CHAIRPERSON:  Tell me what you would think about a North American contribution regime, where all Canadian companies would feed into the North American NECA.  They would all feed into one happy mechanism to do all of this.

8826             MR. JOHNSON:  Are you saying that you would be another state?

‑‑‑ Laughter / Rires

8827             THE CHAIRPERSON:  No, you would be another province.

‑‑‑ Laughter / Rires

8828             MR. JOHNSON:  Everything like that is possible, right?

8829             I am just a simple provider.  The only thing I am interested in doing ‑‑

8830             THE CHAIRPERSON:  I'm just a simple regulator.

8831             MR. JOHNSON:  ‑‑ is serving the deaf and hard‑of‑hearing community.  We try not to get involved in global politics.

8832             I don't know if NECA would be increasing the scope of their work.

8833             I know that the system in the United States is working.  It's not perfect.  They continually develop regulation to make the service better and more regulated, and to throw out potential fraud.


8834             But the fraud in VRS is ‑‑ the potential for fraud in VRS is much less than the potential fraud that might be in an IP relay offering.

8835             I don't really want to go there, I just want to go back to your question and say that all of that, obviously, could be done, but, really, to serve the needs of the deaf community, a much more simple standard could be adopted in Canada to get them their service quicker.

8836             THE CHAIRPERSON:  But it is turnkey.  I mean, if I lived in Bellingham I could get it.  If I take your product and go to Vancouver, 50 miles north, I could still get it, subject to the issue that you talked about, fraud ‑‑ or that I talked about.

8837             MR. JOHNSON:  We think that we are putting programs in place with technology that make it so it's not possible, and it has to do with the signing numbers and so forth, and those are all things that we are implementing now.

8838             THE CHAIRPERSON:  Those are my questions.

8839             Commissioner Denton has a technical question.

8840             COMMISSIONER DENTON:  Sir, do you get the same rate as your other rivals ‑‑ Purple Communications?

8841             Is it a uniform rate that you get?


8842             MR. JOHNSON:  Are you talking about the dark sign?

8843             COMMISSIONER DENTON:  No, we would not dare use these words in this circumstance.

‑‑‑ Laughter / Rires

8844             MR. JOHNSON:  The rate is obviously on a scale.  With the success of our business, we are always on the lower end of the pay scale from NECA reimbursement.  I don't know what their reimbursement rate is, or what the number of minutes are that they submit.

8845             COMMISSIONER DENTON:  I am going to ask a stupid question.  I'm sorry, but I need to understand.  Is your deal with the phone companies or with the deaf user?

8846             MR. JOHNSON:  Our deal ‑‑ we are approved as an IP relay provider by the FCC.  We are recognized as a national provider.

8847             So our relationship is with the FCC, and administered through NECA.

8848             COMMISSIONER DENTON:  But a deaf person seeking to obtain your services goes to his telephone company?


8849             MR. JOHNSON:  In the United States, the goal, obviously, is to give everyone ‑‑ everyone who is deaf and hard‑of‑hearing has a right to have functional equivalency.  The FCC has deemed that the video relay service is the most functional equivalent type of communication available to them.

8850             Our marketing efforts, individually, are used to find deaf and hard‑of‑hearing individuals who would be interested in the offering.

8851             COMMISSIONER DENTON:  Thus, once found, they sign up with you for the service?

8852             MR. JOHNSON:  That is what is happening, yes.  They are selecting us now as a default provider.

8853             COMMISSIONER DENTON:  Thank you very much.

8854             THE CHAIRPERSON:  Thank you, Commissioner Denton.

8855             Commissioner Molnar.

8856             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  Thank you.

8857             Could you confirm, do you provide services other than VRS?

8858             Do you provide message relay or IP relay services?

8859             MR. JOHNSON:  Sorenson provides video relay interpreting, and that is an offering that is paid for privately by a business entity.


8860             VRI is if a deaf and hard‑of‑hearing individual is in a remote location and they don't have access to a qualified sign language interpreter, through video conferencing we give them access to an interpreter.

8861             We do, also, have an IP relay offering.  Jason manages our IP relay offering.

8862             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  Thank you.

8863             If this is possible, I am very interested in understanding the relative costs, if you will, of the two different offerings.  I have seen some numbers regarding the approximate cost per minute of offering VRS.  Do you have costs per minute, for example, of VRS versus IP relay?

8864             MR. JOHNSON:  I think the easiest way is to refer to the reimbursement rate that is offered by NECA.

8865             The reimbursement rate for VRS is, let's say, on average, $6.50.  The reimbursement rate for TTY or IP relay is in the $1.28 range, per minute.

8866             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  And it's the same rate for TTY or IP relay?

8867             MR. JOHNSON:  Very similar.  I think within a penny or two.


8868             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  As I understand it, they are really kind of technology leaps in the same functional ‑‑ providing the text‑based ‑‑

8869             With video relay, if I understand it, with your solution it is a fixed terminal to get the relay ‑‑ your video phone.

8870             What is available for people on a mobile basis, or from a mobile perspective?

8871             Do they just move over to the IP relay sort of services then?

8872             MR. JOHNSON:  In the United States, not that I would want to discredit anyone, there isn't a mobile offering right now for VRS that I am aware of.

8873             There, obviously, are limited mobile solutions, if someone is using an Aircard or something like that, where you can create a VRS experience, but the probability of it being successful is not high.

8874             A mobile offering could be a mobile device.  We have a client that goes ‑‑

8875             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  A laptop, to me, just seems like a very simple opportunity.  It has a webcam on it, and it's capable of video, and it's portable, and it connects with the hi‑speed broadband connection.

8876             So something like that isn't possible?


8877             MR. JOHNSON:  It's possible.  The probability of someone having the technical expertise to be able to do that would be a very small percentage of the community we are serving.

8878             Let me explain that a bit better.

8879             We are providing access, through video, to an interpreter to the deaf and hard‑of‑hearing community.  Most of the deaf and hard‑of‑hearing community ‑‑ they don't have a laptop.  They don't have a webcam.  They don't understand how to enter an IP address, how to do an I‑chat.

8880             The beauty of our system is how simple we have made it for them.

8881             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  Okay.  I will let that go.

8882             I think we heard one group say that the deaf and hard‑of‑hearing were early adopters of technology, and laptops are now $500 ‑‑ but that's fine.  I don't need to pursue that.

8883             MR. JOHNSON:  Let me make one comment ‑‑ and it is not to ‑‑ I don't want to discount anything that anyone has said.


8884             When we entered the VRS market in 2003, everyone thought that the deaf and hard‑of‑hearing community was saturated and they all had access to VRS.

8885             Since that time, we have found more than 90,000 people who didn't have access to VRS.

8886             So it's very difficult to make representations about the community as a whole, because we are really entering into every different socio and economic strata.

8887             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  Thanks.

8888             If you could help me with one more thing ‑‑ and it appears that there are a lot of statistics that I haven't seen yet, which may be available through NECA.

8889             Do you have information regarding the relative use between an MRSI PRS application versus a video relay application?

8890             We saw from the panel before you that there is an estimate that a user would use a video relay service 500 minutes a year.

8891             Would we be able to put that into a relative comparison?

8892             I assume that persons who are deaf will actually use all of the vehicles available to them, as the situation requires.


8893             Do you have anything that would help us understand the relative use between the different tools that are available?

8894             MR. JOHNSON:  Obviously we have customer usage information, and we keep it confidential.

8895             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  So you have nothing that you could share with us on a confidential basis?

8896             MR. JOHNSON:  We could look at that.

8897             We have tried to get MRS information from Canada.  I don't know where we would go to get the amount of MRS minutes for Canada.  If we had that information, I think we could draw some comparisons that would help you get to where you want to go.

8898             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  Okay, I'm done.  Thanks.

8899             THE CHAIRPERSON:  Thank you, Commissioner Molnar.

8900             Back to Commissioner Columbo ‑‑ I mean Commissioner Denton.  Sorry.

‑‑‑ Laughter / Rires


8901             COMMISSIONER DENTON:  I do have another question.  It occurred to me ‑‑ would it not be possible, as an interim measure, to make your service accessible at the $6‑and‑whatever‑cents a minute rate to those who might want to get it, and who are ready to pay?

8902             MR. JOHNSON:  You have my vote.

8903             COMMISSIONER DENTON:  If Mr. Kane's legal opinion is right, there is nothing to prevent you from offering a service with a web‑based interface, or whatever.

8904             MR. JOHNSON:  Yes, but what you would be introducing ‑‑

8905             Obviously, you are talking about the customer paying, right?

8906             COMMISSIONER DENTON:  Yes.  I realize that we are outside the domain of a subsidized scheme here, but ‑‑

8907             MR. JOHNSON:  Yes, and this segment of the community, they have a disability, so you would be introducing a penalty because of their disability.

8908             COMMISSIONER DENTON:  If it were in Canada, in the interim, before the scheme got established, on the supposition that it would be, you wouldn't be offering them a penalty, you would be offering, at least, somebody a service.

8909             MR. JOHNSON:  I have to speak honestly with you.  This is a service that very few individuals, if they were forced to pay for it themselves, could afford.


8910             This is something that ‑‑ you have to look at a segment of the population, and you have to evaluate the technology that is available to them now, and you have to have a group of people who might have social benefits that are better than theirs, and decide if we are going to help this population communicate on an equivalent basis with everyone else.

8911             It's not something that they have a mechanism that they can afford.  I mean, you could imagine, if it cost someone deaf and hard‑of‑hearing $120 to call Air Canada to get a flight to Vancouver, it would be tough.

8912             COMMISSIONER DENTON:  Yes, I understand that, I am just thinking that some people might be rich enough to be able to do it in the interim.

8913             THE CHAIRPERSON:  Thank you, Commissioner Denton.

8914             Commissioner Duncan has a follow‑up?

8915             COMMISSIONER DUNCAN:  I have a couple of questions.


8916             You mentioned having a special division in your company that integrates with the deaf community, and I am wondering, would it be your intention in Canada to have a similar division unique to Canada, or would they be serviced out of the States?

8917             MR. JOHNSON:  No, we would absolutely have to have people who were living in Canada, who were deaf and hard‑of‑hearing, in important positions in our company.  That's the key to our success.

8918             COMMISSIONER DUNCAN:  So you would have a specific Canadian division for that.

8919             MR. JOHNSON:  We would, yes.  In fact, with the TELUS pilot, we will have a project manager, and we have identified Canadian citizens who will help us implement the pilot who are deaf and hard‑of‑hearing.

8920             COMMISSIONER DUNCAN:  Your office in Halifax, when did you open that?

8921             Just approximately, it doesn't ‑‑

8922             MR. DUNN:  That was in July.

8923             COMMISSIONER DUNCAN:  Whereabouts are you located in Halifax?

8924             MR. DUNN:  In Dartmouth.

8925             COMMISSIONER DUNCAN:  Whereabouts in Dartmouth?

8926    &nb