Relaying My Outrage

I saw a story by reporter Lisa Meyers on the Today Show this morning that left me with my mouth wide open….

The fee that you see on your telephone bill called the Carrier Cost Recovery Fee is to fund a service called IP Relay for the deaf that allows them to go to a website and type in a message to be relayed by an operator to a hearing person, via telephone. The operator reads the message to the hearing person then types that hearing person’s spoken reply and transmits it back to the deaf individual.

This costs all of us about $92 Million per year to keep this service running, which I’m fine with because it helps those with hearing and speech disabilities to function in a world that is all about aural communication. It’s ears for the deaf, a voice for the mute. A wonder of the modern age.

Except that it’s being abused by crooks, scammers, killers and thieves, notably scammers in Nigeria.

Since the service is free and un-policed, these people can use it to relay anything from ID theft information to threats against people’s lives (one operator had to read something along the lines of “if you don’t do it I will kill your children” to someone).

They showed other examples of the wild abuses that the system is used for, from hate-filled Nazi rants to explicit sexual material, that operators have HAD to read (assuming they wanted to keep their jobs I suppose). You see, there’s a Catch-22 with the system that prevents operators from reporting suspicious activity because it’s an invasion of privacy to do report these conversations to security agencies.

From what they say it’s been happening for years and the FCC has done nothing to stop it. I’m sure that lawmakers are scratching their heads on how to structure the service to preserve its original intent without creating draconian controls for the law-abiding users of the service, but at this point in time it’s clearly broken and in need of immediate intervention.

If you have time to watch, the MSNBC website already has the video posted from this morning’s segment, follow this link.

[tags]Today Show, Today, Show, IP Relay, FCC, Carrier, Cost, Recovery, Fee, Carrier Cost Recovery, threats, scammers, thieves, Lisa, Meyers, deaf, operator, FBI, $92, million[/tags]

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