Why IP Captioned Telephone is Such a Big Deal

First of all, relay services are a big deal from a money perspective. 200 million minutes were used last year. The rate for these services, paid from state and federal funds can be as much as $12 per minute (for video relay services). In our last round of meetings with Federal Communications Commission (FCC) staff and the commissioners, we demonstrated IP Captioned Telephone using a normal cell phone and a laptop with a broadband connection (more people in the US have broadband than do not have it).

Here’s how it works…

You go to a website, type in your number and the number you are calling to. The operator calls you, then connects you to the person you are calling. Captions of what the other person is saying start appearing on the website with about a three or four second delay. (There is another way to connect that requires a $15 phone splitter from Radio Shack. I have not seen that demonstrated yet.) The operator is using voice recognition software especially trained to your voice. The operator re-voices what the other person is saying. A captioned telephone operator is required to have twice the speed of current relay service transcribers. Thus, while not quite real-time, it is close.

We love this new service for several reasons. First, it is transparent, there is nothing required of the person you are calling, and they do not even know you are using anything to assist you on the call. Think about the workplace and how different this is to making a regular relay call. Secondly, it requires no specialized equipment. It is a seamless solution. Five months ago IP Captioned Telephone seemed dead in the water. We kept meeting, kept talking, kept working on it. To have it pass like this before the end of the year is remarkable. If we try to assign a dollar value, it is very easy to see this service being worth $50 million per year once it gets up and running. Even in Washington, DC, $50 million is still a lot of services, and will benefit thousands of people across the country. That is why it is such a big deal!

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9 thoughts on “Why IP Captioned Telephone is Such a Big Deal

  1. Hi. I am wondering where can we expect an IP-Captioned Telephone Service as I’d like to try it out.

    I have a UTStarCom PPC6700 (Windows Mobile 5.0) purchased from Alltel, will my Pocket PC Phone have to be able to receive both voice and data at the same time if I use IP CapTel service? I am thinking that I can only use voice or data one at a time. I have both the voice and unlimited data plan.

    How would the IP Captioned Telephone work if I am traveling around in vocation like Walt Disney World and I can’t have my laptop with me?

  2. Grayson, great questions. I am familiar with the 6700 and have used one. Theoretically, IP Captioned Telephone can work on a mobile device that is web-enabled. We will have to wait and see what the communications companies come up with. I think we should start to see services available this summer.

  3. OK. Well, what I’m thinking is, I’d probably will have to go with VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol), probably Skype, for example, however it depends on whether carriers such as Alltel allow VoIP or not. Even with VoIP, I’m in a coverage (south side of Tallahassee, Florida) where there’s no EvDO. So I’m thinking that having a seperate Internet-enabled device would work with when I’m in an area with no EvDO coverage. Plus, if I go with VoIP, I would not get free mobile-to-mobile minutes like if I make a phone call to my parent who’re also with Alltel.

  4. How soon do you think we will see this new service? Currently, I use i711.com over the internet for my relay calls. Is there any way I can be notified when the IP CapTel service will start?

    Thank you.

  5. *sigh* Still waiting…

    I’m thinking I’m gonna have to wait until I can sign up for AT&T for HSDPA (it’s high speed Internet and voice connected at the same time) and get myself an AT&T Tilt (8925; HTC TyTN II), as I’m thinking that I may not be able to have data and voice at the same time in my PPC6700 (from Alltel).

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