Bell Atlantic to Make Calling Easier for Customers Who Are Deaf, Hard of Hearing

Bell Atlantic to Make Calling Easier for Customers
Who Are Deaf, Hard of Hearing

First Company Committed to Deployment of 7-1-1 Service

July 8, 1998

Media contact:

Harry Mitchell,

Jim Smith,

NEW YORK -- Bell Atlantic today pledged to become the first local
telephone company in the continental United States to provide 7-1-1
service for deaf and hard of hearing customers throughout its service area.

With 7-1-1 service, customers will be able to dial only three digits to send
text messages over regular phone lines using the Telecommunications
Relay Service.

"Our customers want this service, and we intend to establish 7-1-1 dialing
throughout our region as soon as possible," said Toby Webb, executive
vice president - external affairs and corporate communications, Bell
Atlantic. "It's time to break the logjam. We have the innovation and
technology, and we're ready to forge the appropriate agreements to get
this done."

Today, policies on telephone services for deaf and hard of hearing
customers vary across the country. The deaf and hard of hearing
communities have asked for a simpler way to access telecommunications
relay services (TRS), and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
has reserved 7-1-1 for that purpose. Moreover, the FCC is examining
setting national guidelines governing the implementation of the service. To
avoid further delays, Bell Atlantic has pledged to implement a regionwide
7-1-1 service as soon as possible and will immediately open a dialogue with
regulators on how to implement it in the District of Columbia and all 13
states the company serves.

Bell Atlantic expects that successful discussions with state governments on
how 7-1-1 should be implemented could make the service a reality in about
a year in the mid-Atlantic region and then to other states in the territory as
new technology is deployed.

With 7-1-1 service, callers would be able to dial only three digits plus the
number they are calling to reach Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS)
centers and communicate using text telephone or TTY devices. Today,
customers must dial as many as 21 digits to complete those calls. Deaf and
hard of hearing customers use TTY devices, which send text over regular
phone lines, to conduct telephone conversations. A person at the TRS
center reads the TTY message aloud to the hearing customer, then types a
response to the deaf or hard of hearing customer using the TTY.

Webb said Bell Atlantic today can provide 7-1-1 service in many parts of
the company's territory using the capabilities of its advanced intelligent
network. He added that further deployment of new technologies, under
Bell Atlantic's $6 billion annual network investment program, will enable
the company to provide these new services throughout its entire footprint.

Discussions to provide 7-1-1 service are already underway in Maryland.
"We've made significant progress and Maryland may provide a blueprint
for dialogue in other states," said Sherry F. Bellamy, president and CEO,
Bell Atlantic - Maryland. "Governor Glendening's administration believes
in the need for this service as much as we do, and we commend his team's
flexible approach to delivering 7-1-1- service to customers."

While network upgrades are being made to provide 7-1-1 service, Webb
noted that customers would have continued access to TRS service by
dialing toll-free and local phone numbers. "We'll continue to make both
alternatives available," he said.

The initiative is emblematic of Bell Atlantic's long-standing national
leadership in developing innovative solutions for the deaf and hard of
hearing communities. Bell Atlantic already has established a series of
universal design principles to ensure that the corporation:

  • Provides quality services that can reasonably accommodate a broad
    range of diverse customers, including individuals with disabilities;

  • Goes beyond its responsibilities under the Americans With
    Disabilities Act to review existing services to determine which ones
    need to be more accessible;

  • Designs and develops new services to be accessible to a broad
    range of diverse customers;

  • Employs these universal design principles company-wide and
    through its relationships with customers, employees, shareowners,
    and suppliers. Bell Atlantic encourages other companies to adopt
    these principles.

Bell Atlantic continues to support easy access to pay phones for customers.
The company is working with federal regulators and the deaf and hard of
hearing community to educate the public about free local calling for TRS
service, use of calling cards and availability of pre-paid calling cards.

Bell Atlantic continues to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act
by ensuring that new banks of coin telephones have volume controls for
hard of hearing customers. The corporation also responds to customer
requests to install volume controls in existing pay phones and is putting
volume controls on refurbished phones.

"We encourage the states we serve to work with us in our continued
outreach and customer care efforts," Webb said. "We know that by
working together, we can provide this service quickly to benefit all of our

Bell Atlantic -- formed through the merger of Bell Atlantic and NYNEX --
is at the forefront of the new communications and information industry.
With more than 41 million telephone access lines and 6.7 million wireless
customers worldwide, Bell Atlantic companies are premier providers of
advanced wireline voice and data services, market leaders in wireless
services and the world's largest publishers of directory information. Bell
Atlantic companies are also among the world's largest investors in high-
growth global communications markets, with operations and investments in
23 countries.