AT&T Pays Additional $3.5 Million to Resolve TRS Complaint

According to the Justice Department, AT&T has paid an additional $3.5 million to wrap up its settlement, announced last May, of DOJ charges it knowingly overbilled the FCC-administered Telecommunications Relay Services Fund (TRS), which provides IP voice services for calls placed on behalf of the hearing or speech impaired.

AT&T in May paid $18.25 million of the settlement, which had to do with how AT&T verified the users of the service per a 2008 FCC order to register all callers and verify their information. DOJ said that some of those verifications used "nonsensical" names or addresses including random collections of letters — "jhgfajhs" for example — but AT&T verified them anyway.

At the time Justice first filed the suit back in 2012, AT&T said it had "followed the FCC's rules for providing IP Relay services for disabled customers and for seeking reimbursement for those services. As the FCC is aware, it is always possible for an individual to misuse IP Relay services, just as someone can misuse the postal system or an email account..."

"We would like to thank the Department of Justice for its assistance in ensuring the integrity of the TRS fund," FCC Enforcement Bureau Chief Michele Ellison said in a statement.  "Combined with our previous enforcement actions, today's settlement makes it clear that we will not tolerate abuse of this system, which is vital to millions of Americans."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.