TITLE 39
Public Utilities and Carriers

CHAPTER 39-1
Public Utilities Commission

SECTION 39-1-42


§ 39-1-42 Access to telephone information services for persons with disabilities.

(a) The public utilities commission shall establish, administer, and promote an information accessibility service that includes:

(1) A statewide telephone relay service and, through the competitive bidding process, contract for the administration and operation of such a relay system for utilization of the telecommunications network by deaf, hard-of-hearing and speech-impaired persons;

(2) The adaptive telephone equipment loan program capable of servicing the needs of persons who are deaf, hard of hearing, severely speech impaired, or those with neuromuscular impairments for use with a single-party telephone line, or wireless telephone, to any subscriber who is certified as deaf, hard of hearing, severely speech impaired, or with neuromuscular impairments by a licensed physician, audiologist, speech pathologist, or a qualified state agency, pursuant to chapter 23 of this title; and

(3) A telephone access to the text of newspaper programs to residents who are blind, deaf or blind, visually impaired, or reading impaired with a single-party telephone line.

(b) The commission shall establish, by rule or regulation, an appropriate funding mechanism to recover the costs of providing this service from each residence and business telephone access line or trunk in the state, including PBX trunks and centrex equivalent trunks and each service line or trunk, and upon each user interface number or extension number or similarly identifiable line, trunk, or path to or from a digital network. Notwithstanding the foregoing, there shall not be any additional funding mechanism used to charge each residence and business telephone access line or trunk in the state, including PBX trunks and centrex equivalent trunks and each service line or trunk, or upon each user interface number or extension number or similarly identifiable line, trunk, or path to or from a digital network, to recover the costs of providing the services outlined in subsections (a)(1), (2) or (3) above.

(c) The commission, with the assistance of the state commission on the deaf and hard of hearing, shall also develop the appropriate rules, regulations, and service standards necessary to implement the provisions of subsection (a)(1) of this section. At a minimum, however, the commission shall require, under the terms of the contract, that the relay service provider:

(1) Offer its relay services seven (7) days a week, twenty-four (24) hours a day, including holidays;

(2) Hire only qualified salaried operators with deaf language skills; and

(3) Maintain the confidentiality of all communications.

(d) The commission shall collect from the telecommunications service providers the amounts of the surcharge collected from their subscribers and remit to the department of human services an additional ten thousand dollars ($10,000) annually commencing in fiscal year 2005 for the adaptive telephone equipment loan program and forty thousand dollars ($40,000) to the department of human services for the establishment of a new telephone access to the text of newspaper programs. In addition, eighty thousand dollars ($80,000) shall annually be remitted to the Rhode Island commission on the deaf and hard of hearing for an emergency and public communication access program, pursuant to § 23-1.8-4. The surcharge referenced hereunder shall be generated from existing funding mechanisms and shall not be generated as a result of any new funding mechanisms charged to each residence and business telephone access line or trunk in the state, including PBX trunks and centrex equivalent trunks and each service line or trunk, or upon each user interface number or extension number or similarly identifiable line, trunk, or path to or from a digital network.

History of Section.
(P.L. 1991, ch. 356, § 1; P.L. 2004, ch. 378, § 3; P.L. 2004, ch. 504, § 3; P.L. 2013, ch. 144, art. 17, § 1; P.L. 2016, ch. 45, § 1; P.L. 2016, ch. 52, § 1.)