Deaf News: Ofcom launch official enquiry into BT over Text Relay delay

Posted on June 25, 2014

Communications regulator Ofcom have launched an official enquiry into BT over their delay in providing a replacement telephone service for deaf people and people with a speech impairment.

A new service was due to be launched on April 18th but was delayed when testing showed problems in the way the new service, knows as Next Generation Text Relay, handled emergency calls. BT have not been able to provide an exact date when the service will now be launched but have announced recently that it is expected in early October, six-months overdue.

As a result, Ofcom have launched and enquiry into the media giant and hope to have it complete within ten months. Ofcom can demand to see documentation and evidence from BT as part of the investigation. As we revealed last week, Ofcom could fine BT for the delay which is a breach of a binding agreement to provide the service.

Current textphone technology

Joff McGill, of the UK Council on Deafness Deaf Access to Communications group, said: “We welcome Ofcom’s investigation into BT. Deaf people have been let down by the failure to provide a next generation text relay service and this shows it is being taken seriously.

“Our main concern is that the new service is fit for purpose and launched as soon as possible. Modern telecommunication is central to our lives and deaf people should have equal access to its benefits.

“The Deaf Access to Communications group is meeting regularly with both BT and Ofcom to monitor progress.”

The existing service, known simply as Text Relay or TypeTalk, will still run in its current form until the eventual launch of the Next Generation Service. At present, Text Relay handles 77,000 calls every month. A spokesperson for BT expressed the company’s disappointment:

He said: “BT is disappointed by Ofcom’s decision to investigate the delay of the Next Generation Text (NGT) launch.  We had to postpone the launch of the service, for people with hearing and speech impairments, because of a safety issue with the quality of emergency calls that could have put users at risk.

“We apologise to customers who are waiting for the launch. We have been attempting to fix this issue as quickly as possible and hope to be able to launch the service in the autumn, following testing to ensure that it is completely safe.”

By Andy Palmer, Deputy Editor. 

Andy is Chairman of the Peterborough and District Deaf Children’s Society and teaches sign language in primary schools. Contact him on twitter @LC_AndyP


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