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Proposed telephone relay service description

15 August 2003 Media Statement

Proposed telephone relay service description released

Associate Communications Minister David Cunliffe and Disability Issues Minister Ruth Dyson today announced the release of the proposed service description for the Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS) for public consultation.

A relay service will help ensure that the telephone communication needs of Deaf, hearing impaired and speech impaired New Zealanders are met.

“It’s easiest to think of the relay service as an advanced call centre that will enable people who can’t use a regular telephone because of a hearing or speech impairment, to communicate with any other telephone user in the world,” Ms Dyson said.

Last year the government announced that a relay service would be established as a Telecommunications Service Obligation (TSO) under the Telecommunications Act 2001. As a TSO, the cost of the relay service will be met by liable telecommunications service providers.

Mr Cunliffe said that, since the announcement last year, the government has been working to produce a service description that sets out all the services and support functions that a relay service will need to meet the needs of its users. The Service Description will form the key component of the tender document when the government tenders provision of the relay service later this year.

“Producing the TRS Service Description has been a thorough process. My officials sought initial comment from the disability sector to find out what potential users think is important. We also talked with the telecommunications industry to get their initial views. They both provided valuable input into the proposed Service Description.

“I am confident that the work and time we have put in will help to ensure that the New Zealand TRS meets the needs of its users,” Mr Cunliffe said.

The government has also been working to ensure that the ‘textphones’ or teletypewriters (TTYs) - the specialised terminal equipment required by Deaf, hearing impaired and speech impaired users to access the relay service - will be readily available at an affordable price.

“The government will set up a pool of textphones and rent them to relay service users at an affordable rate. In particular, those who meet the Community Services Card criteria will be able to get a textphone free of charge. For those who fall outside the Community Services Card income limits, there will be a small charge,” Mr Cunliffe said.
Ruth Dyson said that, as well as publicly releasing the proposed TRS Service Description to obtain comment from liable telecommunications service providers and any interested parties, the government would hold meetings in Auckland, Palmerston North, Wellington and Christchurch to get input from Deaf, hearing impaired and speech impaired potential users.

“It is important that those who will depend on the relay service for telephone communication have an opportunity to have their views heard on provision of the service. I expect the meetings will be held in late September. We will publicise the dates through disability sector organisations when they are confirmed,” Ms Dyson said.

The government is also seeking expressions of interest from parties interested in tendering for provision of the relay service and for administering the textphone pool.

“We are aware that there are several parties interested in providing the relay service, and while the Service Description won’t be finalised until after the consultation, we want to provide potential providers with indicative information at this earlier stage,” Mr Cunliffe said.

The government plans to complete the consultation in the coming months. After considering the public consultation input and finalising the TRS Service Description, the provision of a relay service will be tendered.

“We aim to have a provider selected early in the new year, with the service to commence as soon as possible after selection,” Mr Cunliffe said.

More information, including the proposed TRS Service Description is available on the MED website at http://www.med.govt.nz/pbt/telecom/trs/

ENDS

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