The FCC has established a “National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program” (NDBEDP) to enable low-income deaf-blind individuals to have access to modern communication services. The NDBEDP pilot program will help qualified individuals have access to the internet and advanced communications including interexchange services along with advanced telecommunications and information services. Individuals who are deaf-blind as defined in the Helen Keller National Center Act are eligible to apply for equipment.
The FCC is taking this action because a provision in the “Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010” allocated $10 million to be made available from the “Interstate Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS) Fund” for this distribution.
The FCC decided that the best approach would be to establish a two year pilot program with the option of extending the program for a third year if the program proves to be effective. The FCC will then have the option of extending the program permanently.
Under the NDBEDP pilot program, the FCC will certify and provide funding to one entity in each state to distribute equipment with no restrictions as to the brand. Also, the equipment may be off-the-shelf equipment. About $10 million in funding will be available for each year and the FCC will set aside up to $500,000 per year for national outreach efforts. Each state will initially receive a minimum initial funding of $50,000 with the balance of the available funds allocated in proportion to each state’s population.
The reasonable costs of state and local outreach efforts, individual assessments of a deaf-blind person’s communications equipment needs, equipment installation, and individualized training of consumers on how to use the equipment is also covered under NDBEDP.
The synopsis of the final rule for NDBEDP (Docket no. 10-210, FCC 11-56) was published May 9, 2011 in the Federal Register. For further information contact Karen Peltz Strauss at (201) 418-2388 in the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau.