Toj: Hello! Last week I talked about Net Neutrality (there are various signs for it) — the topic is a hot topic. Alex and I were talking about this and we wanted to know how this issue would impact the Deaf community. We use the internet daily, especially for video communications, VRS relay, among others. So this week we reached out to various companies in the Deaf community and asked them what their thoughts were on Net Neutrality rules being repealed. We got a lot of great responses. Now Alex will summarize what they said.
Alex: Thank you, Toj. Now I will start with NAD. I received a response from Zainab Alkebsi, their Policy Counsel (lawyer). Here is summary of what she said.
-- Deaf people often depend on the internet, maybe more than hearing people.
— Prior to NN rules in 2015, some ISPs did block use of FaceTime, and this could happen again.
-- Although NN repeal might cause internet consumers to experience differences and higher prices for internet access, we are protected by federal accessibility laws: ADA and CVAA.
— The FCC will still require ISPs to tell you what services they will limit so you can choose which ISP you want to use that fits your needs.
-- The NAD supports NN, says its repeal is risky for deaf/hard of hearing people, and has filed comments with the FCC asking them to keep NN rules.
— The NAD’s statement was signed by several other deaf/hard of hearing/late deafened organizations.
See this brief clip from Zainab.
Thank you, NAD for your comments. Up next is CSD. I received comments from David Bahar, their Director of Public Policy. Here is his comments:
— When Net Neutrality is repealed, it will affect any type of service or content online that uses a lot of bandwidth. (Bandwidth is a measurement of how much internet data is transferred and at what speeds.
— In the Deaf world, an essential thing to us is video communications. Video takes up a lot of bandwidth, so video content might be throttled (slowed down) by ISPs.
— ISPs could look at VRS companies, see that they are using a lot of bandwidth, and raise costs on them. But they would be required to disclose this information, and this can be disallowed by the FTC (Federal Trade Commission).
Thank you, CSD for your comments. Up next is Convo Relay. I received a response from Jeff Rosen, their General Counsel (lawyer). Here is a summary.
-- Convo is still waiting for the FCC to reveal exactly what the proposed order is to repeal NN. They can’t determine the potential impact on consumers until then.
-- Convo will always push for functional equivalency and true accessibility for their VRS consumers, and believe that consumers should have freedom of access to information.
Thank you, Convo for your comments. Up next is Global VRS. I received comments from their CEO Angela Roth, COO Gabrielle Joseph, and Director of Operations Brian Steinhoff. Here is a summary.
— If NN is repealed, it opens up the potential for “pay to play” opportunities — in which relay services companies would have to pay for priority broadband Internet access to gain a competitive advantage. This could challenge smaller relay providers who have less economic resources because Internet costs could increase.
— Deaf people will be impacted as consumers. Dominant ISPs will likely work in favor of larger companies with more capital (those with more economic resources), because they would be able to pay for improved Internet access. This will limit competition and consumer choice — possibly impacting relay services that rely on high-speed Internet access.
Thank you, NAD, CSD, Convo, and Global VRS for your comments. Now I will turn it over to Toj.
Toj: Thank you, Alex, for summing up those comments. We now have a better understanding of how this can impact the Deaf community, if Net Neutrality is removed. It’s clear that Deaf people will feel the impact because we depend on video to communicate.
The first thing we must watch for is how ISPs will modify their services. Will Deaf people have to pay more for video services? The second thing we must watch is if the costs of high-speed internet and good bandwidth are increased, how will this affect video relay services? How will VRS companies handle that new business structure?
Remember, we are still protected by the ADA and CVAA federal laws, which will allow us to file complaints. Feel free to comment and share your opinion. We’re only two week away from the FCC’s vote to repeal Net Neutrality.