Md. cuts charge for phone relay system for deaf

March 17, 1992|By Leslie Cauley | Leslie Cauley,Staff Writer

The monthly telephone surcharge that funds the state's new telephone relay center for people with hearing problems will be reduced from 31 cents to 17 cents in May, the governor's office announced yesterday.

Joseph Harrison, a spokesman for the Department of General Services, which is responsible for overseeing construction and operation of the relay center, said upfront construction costs will be paid for as of May. As a result, he said, the state can further reduce the surcharge imposed on the state's 1.3 million telephone customers each month to pay for the center.

The new 17-cent charge should remain unchanged for the foreseeable future, Mr. Harrison said.

The charge is imposed by the state as part of the federal Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990, which requires states to set up communication centers by 1993 to handle calls for the nation's deaf and others with hearing impairments.

The surcharge, which appears on monthly telephone statements sent out by Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Co., started out last July at 45 cents. It was the highest rate in the United States.

Following a public outcry -- and marching orders from the governor to take a second look at the charge -- the department decided in September to cut the charge by 14 cents, to 31 cents. The first reduction took effect in January.

The new relay center, which will be staffed 24 hours a day, is scheduled to open next month.

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