[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 227 (Monday, November 26, 2012)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 70407-70409]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-28494]


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FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION

47 CFR Part 20

[WT Docket No. 10-254: DA 12-1745]


Updated Information and Comment Sought on Review of Hearing Aid 
Compatibility Regulations

AGENCY: Federal Communications Commission.

ACTION: Proposed rule.

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SUMMARY: In this document, the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau 
(Bureau) seeks updated comment on the operation and effectiveness of 
the Commission's rules relating to hearing aid compatibility of 
wireless handsets. The Bureau seeks updated comment on whether, in 
light of technological and market developments, the Commission's 
deployment benchmarks continue to ensure that hearing aid-compatible 
handsets are available to all consumers. Additionally, the Bureau asks 
for current information on whether the rules have succeeded in making 
hearing aid-compatible phones available to consumers with a full range 
of different feature sets, and whether the rules appropriately account 
for the challenges facing smaller service providers.

DATES: Comments due on or before December 26, 2012.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments, identified by WT Docket No. 10-254, 
by any of the following methods:
    [ssquf] Federal Communications Commission's Web Site: http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/ecfs2/. Follow the instructions for submitting 
comments.
    [ssquf] Mail.
    [ssquf] People with Disabilities: Contact the FCC to request 
reasonable accommodations (accessible format documents, sign language 
interpreters, CART, etc.) by email: FCC504@fcc.gov or phone: 202-418-
0530 or TTY: 202-418-0432.
    For detailed instructions for submitting comments and additional 
information on the rulemaking process, see the SUPPLEMENTARY 
INFORMATION section of this document.

FOR FUTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jennifer Flynn, Spectrum & Competition 
Policy Division, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, (202) 418-0612 or 
by email Jennifer.Flynn@fcc.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: This is a summary of the Commission's Public 
Notice in WT Docket No. 10-254, DA 12-1745, released November 1, 2012. 
The full text of the Public Notice is available for public inspection 
and copying during business hours in the FCC Reference Information 
Center, Portals II, 445 12th Street SW., Room CY-A257, Washington, DC 
20554. Copies may be purchased from the Commission's duplicating 
contractor, Best Copy and Printing, Inc. (BCPI), 445 12th Street SW., 
Room CY-B402, Washington, DC 20554, 202-488-5300 or 800-378-3160 
(voice), 202-488-5562 (TTY), 202-488-5563 (fax), or you may contact 
BCPI at its Web site: http://www.BCPIWEB.com. When ordering documents 
from BCPI, please provide the appropriate FCC document number, for 
example, DA 12-1745. The Updated Information and Comment Sought on 
Review of Hearing Aid Compatibility Regulations Public Notice is 
available on the Internet at the Commission's Web site at http://www.fcc.gov/document/hearing-aid-compatibility-review-additional-comments-sought and related documents are also available by using the 
search function for WT Docket No. 10-254 on the Commission's Electronic 
Comment Filing System (ECFS) Web page at http://apps.fcc.gov/ecfs/. To 
request information in accessible formats (computer diskettes, large 
print, audio recording, and Braille), send an email to fcc504@fcc.gov 
or call the FCC's Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau at 202-418-
0530 (voice) or 202-418-0432 (TTY).

Summary

    1. By the Public Notice, the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau 
(Bureau) seeks updated comment on the operation and effectiveness of 
the Commission's rules relating to hearing aid compatibility of 
wireless handsets, found at 47 CFR 20.19. In December 2010, the Bureau 
issued a public notice to initiate a comprehensive review of the 
wireless hearing aid compatibility regulations (2010 Review PN), 76 FR 
2625, January 14, 2011. Due to intervening market, technical, and 
regulatory developments since the 2010 Review PN, the Bureau seeks 
updated and additional comment on these matters.

Background

    2. In the Hearing Aid Compatibility Policy Statement and Second 
Report and Order released on August 5, 2010, 75 FR 54508, Sept. 8, 
2010, the Commission reiterated its intention, first stated in 2008, to 
initiate a review of the hearing aid compatibility rules for digital 
wireless services and handsets in 2010. Shortly thereafter, on October 
8, 2010, the Twenty-first Century Communications and Video 
Accessibility Act of 2010 (CVAA, Pub. L. 111-260) became law, ensuring 
that individuals with disabilities have access to emerging Internet 
Protocol-based communications and video programming technologies in the 
21st Century. Among other provisions, the CVAA extended hearing aid 
compatibility requirements to customer premises equipment ``used with 
advanced communications services that is designed to provide 2-way 
voice communications via a built-in speaker intended to be held to the 
ear in a manner functionally equivalent to a telephone.'' The CVAA 
preserved the exemption of mobile handsets from the requirement that 
all telephones be hearing aid-compatible, while maintaining the 
Commission's authority to revoke or limit such exemption.
    3. In December 2010, the Bureau released the 2010 Review PN, which 
sought comment on numerous questions relating to the operation of the 
current hearing aid compatibility rules and their success in making a 
broad selection of wireless phones accessible to people who use hearing 
aids and cochlear implants, as well as in making information about 
those phones available to the public. In particular, the 2010 Review PN 
sought comment on several substantive issues.
    4. First, the Bureau sought comment on the availability of hearing 
aid-compatible handsets. Specifically, the Bureau requested comment on 
whether the Commission's deployment benchmarks appropriately ensure 
that hearing aid-compatible handsets are available to all consumers. 
The Bureau also asked whether the rules have succeeded in making 
hearing aid-compatible phones available to consumers with a full range 
of different feature sets, and whether the rules appropriately account 
for the challenges facing smaller service providers. In addition, the 
Bureau requested comment on whether the M3 and T3 technical standards 
contained in American National Standards Institute Technical Standard 
C63.19 (ANSI Standard C63.19), which is incorporated in the 
Commission's rules,

[[Page 70408]]

appropriately ensure that users of hearing aids and cochlear implants 
will be able to access wireless communications.
    5. The Bureau also sought comment on whether sufficient information 
about hearing aid-compatible phones is being made available to the 
Commission and the public. In particular, the Bureau asked whether the 
Commission's reporting system is collecting appropriate information in 
an efficient way, and whether that information is being made available 
to the public in an accessible manner. The Bureau further sought 
comment on whether manufacturers' and service providers' Web sites are 
providing useful and accessible information, whether point-of-sale and 
packaging disclosures are appropriately informing consumers, and 
whether the in-store testing requirement is effective. The Bureau also 
asked what actions the Commission might take to provide better 
information to consumers with hearing loss who obtain handsets from 
sources other than service providers.
    6. The Bureau also sought comment on technical issues. 
Specifically, the Bureau asked whether additional measures are needed 
to facilitate acoustic coupling compatibility. The Bureau asked about 
the effects on hearing aid compatibility of display screens, wireless 
headsets, and simultaneous transmission capabilities in handsets. The 
Bureau also asked what actions the Commission might take to facilitate 
better interoperability of hearing aids and cochlear implants with 
handsets.
    7. In addition, the Bureau sought comment about the state of 
innovation in solutions to enable people with hearing loss to access 
wireless technology and whether the Commission's rules appropriately 
facilitate such innovation, investment, and competition. Finally, the 
Bureau asked what the Commission should do to promote collaboration 
among consumers with hearing loss, the communications industry, and the 
hearing aid industry.
    8. On April 9, 2012, the Bureau and the Office of Engineering and 
Technology released the Hearing Aid Compatibility Third Report and 
Order, 77 FR 41919, July 17, 2012, which adopted the 2011 revision of 
ANSI Standard C63.19 as an applicable technical standard for evaluating 
the hearing aid compatibility of wireless phones. The 2011 ANSI 
Standard expands the range of frequencies over which hearing aid 
compatibility can be tested to 698 MHz--6 GHz and it establishes a 
direct method for measuring the radio frequency (RF) interference level 
of wireless devices to hearing aids, thereby enabling testing 
procedures to be applied to operations over any RF air interface or 
protocol. The 2011 ANSI Standard also exempts from testing certain low 
power transmitters that are unlikely to cause unacceptable RF 
interference to hearing aids. Under the recently adopted rules, 
beginning August 16, 2013, newly introduced multi-band and multi-mode 
handset models that include operations not covered under ANSI Standard 
C63.19-2007 must be tested under ANSI Standard C63.19-2011 in order to 
be considered hearing aid-compatible. The Commission's deployment 
benchmarks will become applicable to operations over frequency bands 
and air interfaces that are newly covered under the 2011 revision of 
the standard on August 16, 2014, for manufacturers and nationwide 
carriers and on November 16, 2014, for other service providers.

Request for Comments

    9. During the period since the record closed on the 2010 Review PN, 
technologies and markets for both wireless handsets and hearing 
assistance devices have continued to evolve. For example, manufacturers 
have introduced many new handset models, including models that both do 
and do not meet hearing aid compatibility technical standards, as 
evidenced by the most recent annual reports filed by manufacturers on 
July 15, 2012. Many of these handsets offer 3G and 4G broadband 
capability as well as other advanced and innovative features. At the 
same time, increasing numbers of hearing aids are equipped with 
telecoils. The Bureau seeks comment on how this and other developments 
affect any of the matters addressed in the 2010 Review PN. For example, 
do the Commission's rules continue to ensure that a full range of 
hearing aid-compatible handsets is available to all consumers? Have 
developments in the marketplace posed new challenges, or relieved pre-
existing challenges, to smaller providers? Are consumers adequately 
informed about the capabilities of the new handsets and their 
functionality with hearing aids and cochlear implants? In particular, 
are consumers informed about the functioning of handsets that have a 
separate menu-driven mode for operation with telecoils, and that 
activating this mode may affect the phone's acoustic coupling 
performance? Do the existing technical standards adequately and 
completely measure the new handsets' hearing aid compatibility? With 
the introduction of devices in new sizes and form factors, is it 
sufficiently clear whether a device is ``typically held to the ear in 
any of its ordinary uses'' and therefore covered under the hearing aid 
compatibility rules? The Bureau encourages commenters to address these 
and any other effects of technological and market developments.
    10. The Bureau also seeks comment on the impact of the newly 
adopted 2011 revision of ANSI Standard C63.19. In particular, because 
the direct measurement methodology made it possible to eliminate 
certain conservative assumptions, it is approximately 2.2 dB easier 
under the new standard for a GSM phone to receive an M3 rating. In 
light of this development, is it still necessary and appropriate to 
allow phones operating over GSM at 1900 MHz to achieve an M3 rating by 
means of a user-controlled power reduction? Do the new standard or the 
rules implementing that standard affect any other issues addressed in 
the 2010 Review PN? The Bureau also notes that the Telecommunications 
Industry Association (TIA) has released new and revised standards 
relating to volume control and amplification for wireline phones, 
including digital cordless phones, which include revised measurement 
procedures as well as a new metric based on conversational gain. 
Although ASC C63[supreg] has not addressed these procedures and metrics 
in the context of mobile phones, the Consumer and Governmental Affairs 
Bureau has recognized their value in promoting accessibility to 
wireline services for people with hearing loss, and the Bureau invites 
comment on their potential relevance and benefits in the mobile 
context.
    11. The Bureau encourages commenters, to the extent feasible, to 
include specific, quantifiable information regarding the costs and 
benefits of the Commission's hearing aid compatibility reporting and 
enforcement regime. Under the Hearing Aid Compatibility Act, the 
Commission is required to revoke or limit the exemption of phones used 
with public mobile services from hearing aid compatibility requirements 
if (i) Such revocation or limitation is in the public interest; (ii) 
continuation of the exemption without such revocation or limitation 
would have an adverse effect on hearing-impaired individuals; (iii) 
compliance with hearing aid compatibility requirements is 
technologically feasible for the telephones to which the exemption 
applies; and (iv) compliance with hearing aid compatibility 
requirements would not increase costs to such an

[[Page 70409]]

extent that the telephones to which the exemption applies could not be 
successfully marketed. However, the statute leaves the Commission 
substantial discretion to implement the mechanisms that most cost-
effectively ensure compliance with these requirements. Accordingly, the 
Bureau invites further comment on the costs and benefits of these 
mechanisms, particularly as applied to small entities. For example, 
what are the costs to small entities of accurately and timely 
completing FCC Form 655 and of responding to the Commission's 
enforcement inquiries? What are the benefits to consumers of having the 
information in the hearing aid compatibility reports available from the 
smallest service providers as well as the major national and regional 
carriers? Are there alternative approaches that would achieve 
substantially the same benefits in a more cost-effective manner?
    12. The Bureau also welcomes comment on any other new or changed 
circumstances relevant to the operation and effect of the hearing aid 
compatibility rules.

Procedural Matters

    13. Pursuant to Sec. Sec.  1.415 and 1.419 of the Commission's 
rules, 47 CFR 1.415, 1.419, interested parties may file comments and 
reply comments on or before the dates indicated on the first page of 
this document. Comments may be filed using the Commission's Electronic 
Comment Filing System (ECFS). See Electronic Filing of Documents in 
Rulemaking Proceedings, 63 FR 24121 (1998).
     Electronic Filers: Comments may be filed electronically 
using the Internet by accessing the ECFS: http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/ecfs2/.
     Paper Filers: Parties who choose to file by paper must 
file an original and four copies of each filing. If more than one 
docket or rulemaking number appears in the caption of this proceeding, 
filers must submit two additional copies for each additional docket or 
rulemaking number.
    Filings can be sent by hand or messenger delivery, by commercial 
overnight courier, or by first-class or overnight U.S. Postal Service 
mail (although we continue to experience delays in receiving U.S. 
Postal Service mail). All filings must be addressed to the Commission's 
Secretary, Office of the Secretary, Federal Communications Commission.
     All hand-delivered or messenger-delivered paper filings 
for the Commission's Secretary at 236 Massachusetts Avenue NE., Suite 
110, Washington, DC 20002. The filing hours at this location are 8:00 
a.m. to 7:00 p.m. All hand deliveries must be held together with rubber 
bands or fasteners. Any envelopes must be disposed of before entering 
the building.
     Commercial overnight mail (other than U.S. Postal Service 
Express Mail and Priority Mail) must be sent to 9300 East Hampton 
Drive, Capitol Heights, MD 20743.
     U.S. Postal Service first-class mail, Express Mail, and 
Priority Mail should be addressed to 445 12th Street SW., Washington, 
DC 20554.
    One copy of each pleading must be delivered electronically, by 
email or facsimile, or if delivered as paper copy, by hand or messenger 
delivery, by commercial overnight courier, or by first-class or 
overnight U.S. Postal Service mail (according to the procedures set 
forth above for paper filings), to the Commission's duplicating 
contractor, Best Copy and Printing, Inc., at FCC@BCPIWEB.COM or (202) 
488-5563 (facsimile).

Federal Communications Commission.
Jane E. Jackson,
Associate Chief, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau.
[FR Doc. 2012-28494 Filed 11-23-12; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 6712-01-P