First off, this question really had me going. I think the inner phone
grrl in me just kicked in at 1 AM :)
In answer to your question, there seems to be no law relating to
abuse of the TTY (Teletypewriter) or relay system. After scouring
Google and a few other services for legal bits, I came across next to
nothing on the subject -- aside from numerous documents detailing the
compliance requirements of businesses, schools and governments under
But fear not, there is one government regulation to be wary of (in
case you or someone else is interested in abusing the system :) The
principal one, 47 C.F.R. 64.604 (a)(2)(ii) deals with the protocols of
CAs, or Communications Assistants -- the folks who actually do the
relaying in a relay-call situation:
(2) Confidentiality and conversation content. (i) Except as authorized
by section 705 of the Communications Act, 47 U.S.C. 605, ___CAs are
prohibited from disclosing the content of any relayed conversation
regardless of content, and with a limited exception for STS CAs, from
keeping records of the content of any conversation beyond the duration
of a call, even if to do so would be inconsistent with state or local
law.____ STS CAs may retain information from a particular call in
order to facilitate the completion of consecutive calls, at the
request of the user. The caller may request the STS CA to retain such
information, or the CA may ask the caller if he wants the CA to repeat
the same information during subsequent calls. The CA may retain the
information only for as long as it takes to complete the subsequent
. . .
(ii) CAs are prohibited from intentionally altering a relayed
conversation and, ____to the extent that it is not inconsistent with
federal, state or local law regarding use of telephone company
facilities for illegal purposes,____ must relay all conversation
verbatim unless the relay user specifically requests summarization, or
if the user requests interpretation of an ASL call. An STS CA may
facilitate the call of an STS user with a speech disability so long as
the CA does not interfere with the independence of the user, the user
maintains control of the conversation, and the user does not object.
Appropriate measures must be taken by relay providers to ensure that
confidentiality of VRS users is maintained.
There is some inconsistency there, but for the most part, it seems to
be saying that while they are prohibited from disclosing or altering
the content of the conversation, CAs are permitted to refuse to relay,
or at least may make a discretionary call, when they sense an illegal
phone action on the other line.
There's a few caveats here: 1) The CFR(Code of Federal Regulations)
is only a guideline. They aren't statutory. 2) This guideline is
vague as to what, if any penalties, (short of a disconnected call) may
occur from abuse of the system.
Also, there may be state issues here. But from google, and my other
resources, I found nada. This very well may violate the TOS for a
particular carrier. I'm guessing that the legislation wasn't
concerned with people abusing the system, and felt that the cost of
the equipment, and lag time during the connection would be enough to
thwart most folks out of the free local call. That seems to be the
consensus in many of the government documents I was able to uncover.
A few good links:
http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/dro/trs/con_trs.html -- The FCC website on
compliance and much TTY goodness.
http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/consumerfacts/payrelay.html -- The consumer FAQ
on TTY -- Important only because Long distance calls are not generally
free. Even at payphones.
http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/dro/trs_by_state.html -- A breakdown by state
of TRS records (e.g., call duration, number of TRS calls)
Relay Nevada, their rates, and their state breakdown of the TRS
Michigan Relay Center
Search Query on google:
"Phone Fraud" "TTY" (or TDD)
As always, go check with a lawyer for the state/local issues. A
really fascinating question, and I enjoyed answering it!