FCC: Company Will Pay $16 Million Over Possible Misuse of Federal Disability Fund

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By Alexei Alexis  


The Federal Communications Commission May 28 announced a $15.75 million settlement with a provider of internet-based telecommunications services for deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals, to resolve an investigation into possible improper use of a federal disability fund overseen by the agency (Sorenson Communications Inc., FCC, DA 13-1068, 5/28/13).

The probe, conducted by the FCC's Enforcement Bureau, looked at whether Sorenson improperly billed the federal Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS) Fund, which supports telecommunications services for people with disabilities, for calls made by unregistered, unverified, or ineligible individuals, as well as calls that were made by or on behalf of the provider itself.

Of the $15.75 million that the Salt Lake City, Utah-based company was required to pay under the settlement, about $4.2 million will be paid into the TRS Fund, according to the FCC. The bulk of the money will be paid to the U.S. Treasury as a “voluntary contribution,” the agency said.

In addition, Sorenson must implement a compliance plan requiring detailed operating procedures, comprehensive training of its employees, and immediate reporting of possible violations.

“The [FCC Enforcement] Bureau must and will continue to ensure that providers only receive their fair share of TRS funds,” Bureau Chief Michele Ellison said in a statement.

Sorenson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Earlier this month, the FCC announced that AT&T Inc. had agreed to pay $18.25 million to resolve a similar investigation involving the TRS fund, the statement noted.

A consent decree outlining the terms of the settlement between the FCC and Sorenson can be found at http://transition.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2013/db0528/DA-13-1068A1.pdf.

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