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Sorenson Communications to cut department that aids deaf community

By Devon Dolan | Posted - Jul 9th, 2013 @ 10:12pm

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SALT LAKE CITY — Dozens of Utahns will lose their jobs and many others will be affected when Sorenson Communications cuts their Internet Protocal Relay department.

Internet Protocol Relay is a program that allows deaf or hearing impaired individuals to make a phone call. The department will be discontinued on July 31.

Emisha Sill has been using it as her primary form of communication since 2007, and she was devastated when she learned that the Internet Protocol Relay service would no longer be offered.

"I was really dumbfounded," Sill said. "I couldn't believe it."

Sorenson Communications made the decision after the FCC reduced the rate paid to companies providing the service by 21 percent during 2013. The FCC will continue to reduce the paid rate for companies an additional 6 percent each of the following two years.

Chief Marketing Officer of Sorenson Communications, Paul Kershisnik, said the company just can't make a profit while providing Internet Protocol Relay.

"When what you're being paid is below the actual cost, your only choice is to get out of business," Kershisnik said.

150 employees will be affected by the department being shut down, and 25 to 30 will be transition to another department in Sorenson Communications.

Sorenson Communications is the third IP Relay provider to discontinue the service in the past three months. However, Marilyn Call, a representative of the Division of Services for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, said the cut won't make a big impact on the deaf community.

"Less than one percent would use the SIP Relay," Call said. "Most of them use a text telethon where they can use their own voice or they use video relay."

Call said that video relay is the most used form of communication among deaf individuals. Sill said that she will most likely switch to video relay, but that she is not happy about the IP Relay being discontinued.

"I guess I'm just going to have to use my mobile and be patient with it and suffer though it because I really don't have any other options," she said.

Sorenson Communication customers who use IP Relay and want to continue will have to switch to another provider.


Devon Dolan

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