Chapter Eleven continued...
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Notice of Inquiry on Internet Telephony

At the same time that the FCC issued its final rules implementing Section 255, it also issued a Notice of Inquiry to gather information about access to Internet telephony. Internet telephony provides real-time transmissions using something called a packet-switched communications protocol. At the time this book goes to print, the FCC will be gathering information on the ways in which Internet telephony services will impact the disability community, and the steps that are needed by the FCC to guarantee access to this new technology.

Interactive Voice Systems and Voice Mail

Also included within the FCC's mandates are interactive voice response (IVR) systems and voice mail. IVR systems are phone systems that allow callers to select from a menu of choices by pressing numbers on their phones, in response to "prompts" from recordings. It has become increasingly common for government agencies, businesses, and educational institutions to use these systems to conduct their telephone business. However, IVR systems are not typically accessible to TTYs. Nor are they accessible to relay users because the speed of the messages used in these systems are too fast and the times given for responses are too short. Similarly, IVR systems are often difficult to navigate for people who have only mild hearing loss, but who have trouble hearing the prompts.

Although both IVR systems and voice mail services technically fall into the category of information services, rather than the telecommunications services which are covered under Section 255, the FCC has brought these services within the scope of its Section 255 rules through a legal doctrine known as "ancillary jurisdiction." This doctrine allows the FCC to extend its jurisdiction beyond the literal language of a statute when such jurisdiction is needed to meet the objective of that statute.

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