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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

PA House Bill 1608 - What it means for Deaf, HOH, Speech Impaired and Elderly in Pennsylvania

As many of you know, I am on the Telecommunications Advisory Board for Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission. There are currently 3 vacant positions open for public members. Are you a relay user in PA? Let us know if you're interested in serving on this board. Your expenses will be covered if you travel into Harrisburg, PA to our meetings. We meet at the Public Utilities Commission several times a year.

At our most recent meeting, we had members from PUC come and discuss with us House Bill 1608 and what it is all about.

This bill has many items that affect the Deaf, Hard of Hearing, Speech Impaired and the elderly, as well as anyone who is using analogue equipment.

It asks for the deregulation of telephone companies. This will affect EVERYONE because that means there will no longer be consumer protection, and everyone will be at the mercy of the phone companies.

Deregulation means there will no longer be dispensary programs for disabled people who need special communication equipment, such as tty, tdd and captioned phones. Many of our elderly and disabled people are not able to afford the equipment or services that will come with deregulation.

Though the phone companies say this will "level the field", what it really means is that a lesser quality company can come in and provide very little service to rural areas, and not have to answer to anyone for poor service.

Along with lesser quality service and companies, this opens the field to greater possibility of our disabled and senior populations to be prey to scams and scammers.

How did this bill get proposed? During Hurricane Sandy, many of the copper lines, (also known as access lines) became damaged. Verizon was affected because their lines took a hard hit in some areas. Because of this, they concluded that since fewer people use these access lines, they do not want to repair or replace these lines. If someone moves into a new area, and these cables are not available for their equipment, no new lines will be put in.

With deregulation, analogue equipment will eventually just quit working.

Analogue equipment are not only tty, tdd and older captioned phones, they are also medic alert devices for seniors who need assistance when "fall down and can't get up". These older devices use the copper access lines.

It is interesting to note that cell phones and new mobile devices are not actually phones. They are considered  "radio".

With deregulation, there will be no funding available for government groups to ensure consumer protection, or dispensaries of new compatible equipment for disabled, seniors and low income people who need accessible equipment to meet their communication needs.

I asked Shaun Parks of PUC, PA what we could do right now. He suggested we contact our PA representatives and voice our concerns regarding this bill. We as individuals, and we who belong to groups such as AARP and HLAA need to unite and express our concerns. This will affect everyone in the end, one way or another.

There is much more to House Bill 1608 than we realize.

I am currently waiting for information as to exactly who to contact, and when I have it, I will pass it along to you.

#AARP #HLAA #Communication #Accessibiltiy


  1. Apparently people in the PUC dont like this bill either. The only people who like this bill are the telephone companies who would benefit. The bill is not yet out of committee, so may be early to write your legislator, but maybe it would be a good idea anyway. Seems like a lot of opposition, but the only concern is that campaign contributions speak louder than the public.

    1. I think getting the information out right now, as they suggested is key. Once we have the info who to contact in Legislature, we can begin to draft letters. Thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment, Dragonfly!