The Vermont Statutes Online
Chapter 005 : STATE POLICY; PLANS; JURISDICTION AND REGULATORY AUTHORITY OF COMMISSION AND DEPARTMENT
Subchapter 001 : General Powers(Cite as: 30 V.S.A. § 218a)
§ 218a. Permanent telecommunications relay service
(a)(1) The Department of Public Service shall develop the necessary standards for the establishment of a permanent, statewide telecommunications relay service and for an associated equipment program.
(2) The standards developed by the Department shall be equal to or exceed those standards mandated by the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 (Public Law 101-336, 104 Stat. 327 (1990)) and expressly require that the designated provider of Vermont's telecommunications relay services comply, as expeditiously as possible, with any additional federal regulations that may be promulgated by the Federal Communications Commission in accordance with the provisions of this section.
(b) The Department of Public Service shall issue a request for proposal seeking competitive bids from qualified vendors to provide telecommunications relay services and competitive bids from qualified vendors to provide telecommunications equipment in accordance with the provisions of this section, including the standards developed under subsection (a) of this section. The term of any contract shall not exceed four years.
(c) The Department of Public Service may contract with the qualified bidder offering the most favorable proposal, giving due consideration to costs, to quality of service, and to the interests of the community of people who are deaf, hard of hearing, or have speech limitations.
(d)(1) The Department of Public Service shall establish the Vermont Telecommunications Relay Service Advisory Council composed of the following members: one representative of the Department of Public Service designated by the Commissioner of Public Service; one representative of the Department of Disabilities, Aging, and Independent Living; two representatives of the deaf community; one member of the community of people who are hard of hearing or have a speech limitation; one representative of a company providing local exchange service within the State; and one representative of an organization currently providing telecommunications relay services.
(2)(A) The Council shall elect from among its members a chair and vice chair. Meetings shall be convened at the call of the Chair or a majority of the members of the Council. The Council shall meet not more than six times a year.
(B) The members of the Council who are not officers or employees of the State shall receive per diem compensation and expense reimbursement in amounts authorized by 32 V.S.A. § 1010(b). The costs of the compensation and reimbursement and any other necessary administrative costs shall be included within the contract entered into under subsection (c) of this section.
(3) The Council shall advise the Department of Public Service and the contractor for telecommunications relay services on all matters concerning the implementation and administration of the State's telecommunications relay service, including the telecommunications equipment grant program established pursuant to subsection (e) of this section.
(e)(1) The Department shall propose and the Commission shall establish by rule or order a telecommunications equipment grant program to assist persons who are deaf, deaf-blind, hard of hearing, have a speech limitation, and persons with physical disabilities that limit their ability to use standard telephone equipment to communicate by telephone.
(2) Pursuant to this program, a person who is deaf, deaf-blind, hard of hearing, has a speech limitation, or a person with a physical disability that limits his or her ability to use standard telephone equipment whose modified adjusted gross income as defined in 32 V.S.A. § 5829(b)(1) for the preceding taxable year was less than 200 percent of the official poverty line established by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for a family of six or the actual number in the family, whichever is greater, published as of October 1 of the preceding taxable year, may be eligible for a benefit toward the purchase, upgrade, or repair of equipment used to access the relay service or otherwise communicate by telephone. The total benefits allocable under this subsection shall not exceed $75,000.00 per year.
(3) In adopting rules, the Commission shall consider the following:
(A) prior benefits;
(B) degree of functional need;
(D) number of applicants;
(E) disposition of equipment upon change of residence; and
(F) appropriate limits on per person benefit levels based on the equipment needed and the income level of the applicant.
(f) The costs of the State's telecommunications relay service and any equipment benefit under subsection (e) of this section shall be included as part of the Vermont Universal Service Fund Program. (Added 1991, No. 6, § 2, eff. March 20, 1991; amended 1997, No. 135 (Adj. Sess.), § 4; 1999, No. 67 (Adj. Sess.), § 2; 1999, No. 157 (Adj. Sess.), § 6; 2001, No. 93 (Adj. Sess.), § 1; 2005, No. 171 (Adj. Sess.), § 4; 2005, No. 174 (Adj. Sess.), § 59; 2013, No. 96 (Adj. Sess.), § 192; 2017, No. 118 (Adj. Sess.), § 1, eff. May 2, 2018; 2019, No. 128 (Adj. Sess.), § 14.)