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Delayed Federal Certification Forces Closure of Call Center for Hearing Impaired

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March 06, 2012

Delayed Federal Certification Forces Closure of Call Center for Hearing Impaired

By Chris Freeburn, TMCnet Web Editor

URrelay, a Cedar Rapids, Iowa-based call center providing relay services for hearing-impaired individuals, shut down on Monday citing difficulties obtaining federal certification that caused the company to lose money, according to a report on KCRG. All 55 company staffers were laid off when URrelay announced that it had not received Federal Communications Commission certification for its relay services.

The company’s services are financed by the FCC (News - Alert)-regulated Universal Service fund, which telephone subscribers support with a monthly fee included in telephone bills. The FCC implemented new rules in 2011 to prevent billing fraud. After the non-profit organization that URrelay serviced could not gain FCC certification under the new rules, the company attempted to obtain certification on its own.

Bill McClelland, partner and chief operating officer at URrelay, told KCRG that the company had continued to maintain services at its own expense since January while it pursued FCC certification. A month and a half later, the FCC could not tell the company whether or not it would receive certification. McClelland said that without a clear answer, URrelay could not continue to operate without incoming revenue. McClelland said that had the company known about the delay in receiving certification, it would have shuttered operations earlier.

According to KCRG, the failure to obtain certification was another in a series of problems faced by URrelay, including heavy damage to its former call center in downtown Cedar Rapids caused by severe flooding in 2008. It relocated to another building in 2009.

McClelland said that the company would try to survive until FCC certification had been cleared. “What I really want is for the license to go through,” McClelland said. “We’ll have to figure out how long we can hold out before we do anything else.”

KCRG noted that URrelay was one of a number of service providers for Northstar Relay LLC, which requested a waiver for the new rules that took effect on June 1, 2011. In September, the FCC denied the waiver. URrelay provided video relay services since 2006 through an agreement with the Communications Access Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (CAC). Northstar appealed the waiver denial, but the FCC ruled that as a new entity, Northstar had offered no explanation how it would comply with the rules. The FCC cited URrelay on Sept. 29, 2011, for violating FCC rules. McClelland told KCRG that as one of the oldest video relay providers and a company familiar to FCC regulators, the company hadn’t expected a long approval process.

Due to the FCC’s delays, URrelay will route its services through a call center operated based in the Philippines, McClelland told KCRG.

Edited by Carrie Schmelkin

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