[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 66 (Thursday, April 5, 2012)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 20553-20555]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-8133]


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FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION

47 CFR Part 64

[CG Docket No. 10-210; DA 12-430]


Relay Services for Deaf-Blind Individuals

AGENCY: Federal Communications Commission.

ACTION: Final rule; waiver of requirement.

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SUMMARY: In this document, the Commission conditionally waives the 
requirement for National Deaf Blind Equipment Distribution Program 
(NDBEDP) certified programs to submit reimbursement claims only once 
every six months, to permit certified programs to submit reimbursement 
claims as frequently as monthly. The Commission waives this requirement 
for good cause shown, to reduce the financial burden on programs that 
the Commission certifies to participate in the NDBEDP, and to better 
enable selected participants to fully meet the needs of eligible low-
income, deaf-blind individuals in a timely manner.

DATES: This document is effective May 7, 2012, except the modified 
reporting requirement in 47 CFR 64.610(f)(2), published at 76 FR 26641, 
May 9, 2011, has not been approved by the Office of Management and 
Budget (OMB). The modified information collection requirement shall 
become effective when the Commission publishes a document in the 
Federal Register announcing OMB approval and the effective date of the 
requirement.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Rosaline Crawford, Consumer and 
Governmental Affairs Bureau, Disability Rights Office, at (202) 418-
2075 or email Rosaline.Crawford@fcc.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: This is a synopsis of the Commission's 
document DA 12-430, adopted March 20, 2012, and released March 20, 
2012, in CG Docket No. 10-210.
    The full text of document DA 12-430 and copies of any subsequently 
filed documents in this matter will be available for public inspection 
and copying via ECFS, and during regular business hours at the FCC 
Reference Information Center, Portals II, 445 12th Street SW., Room CY-
A257, Washington, DC 20554. They may also be purchased from the 
Commission's duplicating contractor, Best Copy and Printing, Inc., 
Portals II, 445 12th Street SW., Room CY-B402, Washington, DC 20554, 
telephone: (800) 378-3160, fax: (202) 488-5563, or Internet: 
www.bcpiweb.com. Document DA 12-430 can also be downloaded in Word or 
Portable Document Format (PDF) at http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/dro/headlines.html and at http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/dro/cvaa.html.
    To request materials in accessible formats for people with 
disabilities (Braille, large print, electronic files, audio format), 
send an email to fcc504@fcc.gov or call the Consumer and Governmental 
Affairs Bureau at 202-418-0530 (voice), 202-418-0432 (TTY).

Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 Analysis

    Document DA 12-430 contains a modified information collection 
requirement. The Commission, as part of its continuing effort to reduce 
paperwork burdens, invites the general public to comment on the 
modified information collection requirement contained in document DA 
12-430 as required by the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA), Public Law 
104-13 in a separate published Federal Register Notice (Notice). Public 
and agency comments are due on or before May 29, 2012. See Information 
Collection Being Reviewed by the Federal Communications Commission, 
Notice, published at 77 FR 18813, March 28, 2012. In addition, the 
Commission notes that pursuant to the Small Business Paperwork Relief 
Act of 2002, Public Law 107-198, the Commission previously sought 
specific comment on how the Commission might ``further reduce the 
information collection burden for small business concerns with fewer 
than 25 employees.'' See 44 U.S.C. 3506(c)(4). In the present document, 
the Commission has assessed the effects of the rules for the NDBEDP 
pilot program and finds that the

[[Page 20554]]

collection of information requirements will not have a significant 
impact on small business concerns with fewer than 25 employees.

Congressional Review Act

    The Commission will not send a copy of document DA 12-430 to 
Congress and the Government Accountability Office pursuant to the 
Congressional Review Act, see 5 U.S.C. 801(a)(1)(A), because the 
conditional waiver adopted in document DA 12-430 does not amend the 
Commission's rules.

Synopsis

    1. On April 4, 2011, in accordance with the Twenty-First Century 
Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA), Public Law 111-260, 
124 Stat. 2751 (2010), the Commission adopted a Report and Order 
establishing the National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program 
(NDBEDP). See Relay Services for Deaf-Blind Individuals, Report and 
Order, document FCC 11-56, published at 76 FR 26641, May 9, 2011 
(NDBEDP Pilot Program Order). The goal of the NDBEDP is to ensure that 
low-income individuals who are deaf-blind receive the equipment they 
need to effectively access telecommunications services, Internet access 
services, and advanced communications services. The CVAA authorizes the 
Commission to allocate up to $10 million annually from the Interstate 
Telecommunications Relay Services Fund (TRS Fund) for this nationwide 
equipment distribution effort. See 47 U.S.C. 620(c). The Commission 
will certify and provide funding to one entity in each state for the 
purpose of distributing communications equipment to low-income 
individuals who are deaf-blind.
    2. NDBEDP certified programs may seek reimbursement of costs from 
the TRS Fund up to the funding allocation for the state, for the 
equipment they distribute, the reasonable costs of providing related 
services, and the costs associated with administering these programs. 
In the NDBEDP Pilot Program Order, the Commission adopted a funding 
mechanism that allows for reimbursement for these authorized costs 
every six months. See 47 CFR 64.610(f)(2) of the Commission's rules. To 
obtain reimbursement for authorized costs, certified programs must 
provide the Commission with documentation and a reasonably detailed 
explanation of the costs actually incurred during the prior six-month 
period of the funding year.

Frequency of Reimbursement Claims

    3. The Commission announced that it would accept applications 
through November 21, 2011, from programs interested in receiving 
certification to participate in the NDBEDP pilot program. See FCC 
Announces 60-Day Period to Apply for Certification to Participate in 
the National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program, Public Notice, 
document DA 11-1591, released September 22, 2011. In response, the 
Commission received 58 applications from entities representing each of 
the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin 
Islands. All applications are from state or local government agencies 
or non-profit entities.
    4. More than half of the applications received include a request 
for the Commission to permit claims for reimbursement of NDBEDP 
expenses more frequently than once every six months. Many of the 
applicants assert that the inability to receive compensation more 
frequently than once every six months will compromise significantly 
their ability to staff their programs, purchase equipment, actively 
conduct program outreach, and handle other required tasks. Accordingly, 
they claim that the once every six months reimbursement interval will 
severely and profoundly limit their ability to serve eligible low-
income, deaf-blind individuals in a timely manner. Several applicants 
also assert that permitting more frequent claims for reimbursement is 
necessary to maintain financial stability and to ensure timely payments 
to vendors and contractors. Still others raise questions about their 
ability to participate in the NDBEDP program at all if not permitted to 
receive compensation on a more frequent basis, especially given their 
non-profit status, the sizeable expenditures they must incur for 
covered equipment, and recent budget reductions experienced by state 
and local government agencies that make reliance on regular funding 
critical to their participation in this program.
    5. Generally, the Commission may waive any provision of its rules 
on its own motion for good cause shown. See 47 CFR 1.3 of the 
Commission's rules. In addition, the Commission may take into account 
considerations of hardship, equity, or more effective implementation of 
overall policy on an individual basis. WAIT Radio v. FCC, 418 F.2d 
1153, 1157 (D.C. Cir. 1969), affirmed, 459 F.2d 1203 (D.C. Cir. 1972). 
In sum, a waiver of our rules is appropriate if special circumstances 
warrant a deviation from the general rule, and such deviation would 
better serve the public interest than strict adherence to the general 
rule. Northeast Cellular Tel. Co. v. FCC, 897 F.2d 1164, 1166 (D.C. 
Cir. 1990).
    6. For good cause shown, and to reduce the financial burden on 
programs that the Commission certifies to participate in the NDBEDP and 
better enable selected participants to fully meet the needs of eligible 
low-income, deaf-blind individuals in a timely manner, the Commission 
conditionally waives its rules to permit such programs to submit claims 
for reimbursement from the TRS Fund more frequently. The Commission 
finds persuasive applicants' assertions that a six-month reimbursement 
cycle will impose a hardship that could prevent many entities from 
participating in the NDBEDP. Many of the non-profit and state or local 
programs that have applied for certification report that they operate 
on limited funding that will be strained if forced to wait a full six 
months for compensation. This is especially true given the high costs 
of equipment generally required by individuals who are deaf-blind. The 
Commission finds that the large upfront expenses needed for such 
equipment justifies a waiver to permit more frequent reimbursement.
    7. To be compensated for equipment distributed and services 
rendered under the NDBEDP pursuant to this waiver, each certified 
entity must comply with certain conditions. Specifically, each 
certified entity that wishes to take advantage of this waiver will be 
permitted to elect a reimbursement schedule on either a monthly or 
quarterly basis. Such entity must notify the TRS Fund Administrator of 
its election at the start of each Fund Year, and maintain that schedule 
for the duration of the Year. Entities electing to seek reimbursement 
on a monthly or quarterly basis also will be required to submit 
documentation and a reasonably detailed explanation of costs incurred 
within 30 days after the end of each month or quarter, respectively, of 
the Fund Year (July 1 through June 30). See 47 CFR 64.610(f)(2) of the 
Commission's rules. In either case, the TRS Fund Administrator and the 
NDBEDP Administrator shall review the costs submitted and may request 
supporting documentation to verify the expenses claimed. See 47 CFR 
64.610(f) of the Commission's rules. Entities that do not take 
advantage of this waiver do not need to so notify the Fund 
Administrator, but will be required to submit documentation and a 
reasonably detailed explanation of their costs incurred within 30 days 
after the end of each six-month period of the funding

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year, as required by the Commission's rules. See 47 CFR 64.610(f)(2) of 
the Commission's rules. In each case, costs submitted must be for those 
costs actually incurred during each preceding one-, three-, or six-
month period.
    8. The Commission further notes that the waiver granted in document 
DA 12-430 will be for the duration of the NDBEDP pilot program. The 
purpose of establishing the NDBEDP initially as a pilot program is to 
provide the flexibility needed to enable certified programs to 
structure their distribution and service delivery systems to 
effectively meet the needs of their participants. This flexibility is 
expected to result in a variety of equipment distribution and service 
delivery models that could serve as the foundation for establishment of 
the permanent NDBEDP. The Commission concludes that allowing certified 
entities to receive the needed funding in a timely manner will better 
enable such entities to make their programs effective and sustainable, 
which, in turn, will help inform future Commission decisions regarding 
a permanent NDBEDP that furthers the public interest.

Ordering Clauses

    9. Pursuant to sections 4(i) and 719 of the Communications Act of 
1934, as amended, 47 U.S.C. 154(i), 620, and Sec.  1.3 of the 
Commission's rules, 47 CFR 1.3, and Sec.  64.610(f)(2) of the 
Commission's rules is conditionally waived to permit NDBEDP certified 
programs to submit claims for reimbursement more frequently than once 
every six months as required by Sec.  64.610(f)(2) of its rules and to 
submit reimbursement claims up to one time each month.
    10. This action is taken under delegated authority pursuant to 
Sec. Sec.  0.141 and 0.361 of the Commission's rules, 47 CFR 0.141, 
0.361.

Federal Communications Commission.
Karen Peltz Strauss,
Deputy Chief, Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau.
[FR Doc. 2012-8133 Filed 4-4-12; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 6712-01-P