[Federal Register Volume 82, Number 197 (Friday, October 13, 2017)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 47663-47669]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2017-22189]


=======================================================================
-----------------------------------------------------------------------

FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION

47 CFR Part 20

[WT Docket No. 17-228; FCC 17-123]


Revisions to Reporting Requirements Governing Hearing Aid-
Compatible Mobile Handsets

AGENCY: Federal Communications Commission.

ACTION: Proposed rule.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: In this document, the Federal Communications Commission 
(Commission) seeks comment on proposals to provide relief to non-
nationwide service providers by revising the Commission's wireless 
hearing aid compatibility reporting requirements.

DATES: Interested parties may file comments on or before November 13, 
2017, and reply comments on or before November 27, 2017.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments and reply comments on or before the 
dates indicated in the DATES section above. 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). All filings related to this document shall refer to WT Docket 
No. 17-228.
    [ssquf] Electronic Filers: Comments may be filed electronically 
using the Internet by accessing the ECFS: http://apps.fcc.gov/ecfs/.
    [ssquf] Paper Filers: Parties who choose to file by paper must file 
an original and one copy of each filing.
    Filings can be sent by hand or messenger delivery, by commercial 
overnight courier, or by first-class or overnight U.S. Postal Service 
mail. All filings must be addressed to the Commission's Secretary, 
Office of the Secretary, Federal Communications Commission.
    [ssquf] All hand-delivered or messenger-delivered paper filings for 
the Commission's Secretary must be delivered to FCC Headquarters at 445 
12th Street SW., Room TW-A325, Washington, DC 20554. The filing hours 
are 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. All hand deliveries must be held together 
with rubber bands or fasteners. Any envelopes and boxes must be 
disposed of before entering the building.
    [ssquf] Commercial overnight mail (other than U.S. Postal Service 
Express Mail and Priority Mail) must be sent to 9050 Junction Drive, 
Annapolis Junction, Annapolis, MD 20701.
    [ssquf] U.S. Postal Service first-class, Express, and Priority mail 
must be

[[Page 47664]]

addressed to 445 12th Street SW., Washington, DC 20554.
    People with Disabilities. To request materials in accessible 
formats for people with disabilities (braille, large print, electronic 
files, audio format), send an email to [email protected] or call the 
Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau at 202-418-0530 (voice), 202-
418-0432 (tty).
    For additional information on the rulemaking process, see the 
SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section of this document.
    In addition to filing comments with the Secretary, a copy of any 
comments on the Paperwork Reduction Act information collection 
modifications proposed herein should be submitted to the Commission via 
email to [email protected] and to Nicholas A. Fraser, Office of Management 
and Budget, via email to [email protected] or via fax at 
202-395-5167.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For further information on this 
proceeding, contact Michael Rowan, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, 
(202) 418-1883, email [email protected].

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: This is a summary of the Federal 
Communications Commission's Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, in WT Docket 
No. 17-228; FCC 17-123, adopted September 26, 2017, and released on 
September 27, 2017. This document is available for download at http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/. The complete text of this document is 
also available for inspection and copying during normal business hours 
in the FCC Reference Information Center, Portals II, 445 12th Street 
SW., Room CY-A257, Washington, DC 20554. To request materials in 
accessible formats for people with disabilities (Braille, large print, 
electronic files, audio format), send an email to [email protected] or 
call the Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau at 202-418-0530 
(voice), 202-418-0432 (TTY).

I. Discussion

    1. The Commission seeks comment on whether to exempt a service 
provider that is not a Tier I carrier (Non-Tier I Service Provider) 
from the annual FCC Form 655 reporting requirements or otherwise to 
modify these requirements, while maintaining the reporting requirements 
for Tier I carriers and all handset manufacturers.
    2. The Commission seeks comment on whether the annual reporting 
requirements for Non-Tier I Service Providers are still necessary to 
achieve the Commission's objectives for adopting the reporting 
requirements and whether the burden of complying with these reporting 
requirements for Non-Tier I Service Providers outweighs the associated 
benefits. The Commission, in adopting these reporting requirements, 
stated that its reporting requirements serve several purposes: 
Providing information to the public, assisting efforts to verify 
compliance, and monitoring the general state of hearing aid-compatible 
handset deployment. The Commission asks commenters to address the 
contribution of Non-Tier I Service Provider reports to these objectives 
and whether these reports are still necessary to achieve these 
objectives.
    3. For example, the Commission seeks comment on the extent to which 
consumers rely on Non-Tier I Service Providers' annual reports for 
information about handset models. The Commission notes that the 
Commission's in-store testing and Web site posting requirements will 
continue to apply if the Commission adopts an exemption from the Form 
655 reporting requirements. The Commission seeks comment on whether 
consumers will have sufficient information from service providers' 
ongoing compliance with these requirements. The Commission also seeks 
comment on whether the continued availability of Tier I carrier reports 
suggests that, in the aggregate, the informational benefit to consumers 
of Non-Tier I Service Provider reports will be minimal or otherwise 
supports exempting them from reporting requirements. Similarly, are 
consumers informed to a greater degree about the availability of 
handset models in the marketplace from the reports of device 
manufacturers?
    4. The Commission also seeks comment on whether consumers can 
obtain information from other third-party resources and whether they 
may be better or more accessible sources of information to the public 
about handset offerings than the status reports filed with the 
Commission. For instance, the Global Accessibility Reporting Initiative 
(GARI) is a project run by the Mobile & Wireless Forum that is designed 
to help consumers learn more about the accessibility features of mobile 
devices and to help them identify devices with the features that may 
assist them with their particular needs. Are these information sources 
sufficient? If not, commenters should provide specific examples of the 
information these sources are missing.
    5. With regard to monitoring the compliance of Non-Tier I Service 
Providers with the Commission's rules, the Commission seeks comment on 
whether the Commission should rely on its informal complaint process to 
help ensure Non-Tier I Service Providers continue to meet deployment 
benchmarks and other requirements. Given that these annual reports in 
recent years have reflected near universal compliance with the 
requirements, is detailed reporting from every small and regional 
service provider still justified to address any isolated instances of 
non-compliance by such providers? Would eliminating or modifying the 
reporting requirements help these service providers save costs without 
an appreciable negative impact on the Commission's enforcement 
objectives? For example, the Commission notes that the Commission 
already relies on the informal complaint process rather than reporting 
to monitor compliance with other hearing aid compatibility obligations, 
such as in-store testing requirements. The Commission solicits comment 
on whether our enforcement objectives can be met by continuing to 
monitor the reports from device manufacturers and Tier I carriers.
    6. The Commission seeks comment on whether Non-Tier I Service 
Provider reporting is necessary to meet the Commission's objective of 
gauging the overall state of access to wireless hearing aid-compatible 
handset models. Is it sufficient if the Commission only receives 
reports from manufacturers and Tier I carriers? For instance, the 
Commission has previously recognized that Non-Tier I Service Providers 
have difficulty obtaining the newest hearing aid-compatible handsets in 
comparison to the Tier I carriers, and the Commission seeks comment on 
whether the majority of newer compatible handset models on the market 
is reflected in Tier I carriers' status reports. Do Tier I carrier 
reports better reflect the feasibility of achieving hearing aid 
compatibility in handsets than the reports of Non-Tier I Service 
Providers? Additionally, the Commission in 2010 noted the ``growing 
distribution of wireless handsets through channels other than service 
providers.'' To what extent has this development reduced the importance 
of service provider reports in assessing access to compatible models? 
To monitor the state of hearing aid-compatible handset availability and 
technologies, the Commission also seeks comment on whether the 
Commission can rely on supplemental submissions for this type of 
information from stakeholders in open docket WT Docket No. 15-285.
    7. The Commission also seeks comment on the burdens on Non-Tier I 
Service Providers of complying with the

[[Page 47665]]

Form 655 reporting requirements. Do special circumstances make annual 
status reporting particularly burdensome for small, rural, and regional 
carriers? If so, what are these circumstances and what is the burden or 
cost that results from them? \1\ The Commission asks commenters to 
explain all such burdens in detail, including the costs in labor and 
wages of complying with the reporting requirements.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \1\ To the extent parties support an alternative definition or 
size standard for a reporting exemption, we seek comment on the 
burdens applicable to providers meeting that definition or standard.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    8. The Commission seeks comment on all potential cost savings and 
other potential benefits of our proposed reporting exemption. The FCC 
Form 655 Instructions state ``each response to this collection of 
information will take, on average, two and a half (2.5) hours.'' Is 
this estimate accurate? Are there resources or measures not accounted 
for in this estimate that are needed for small providers specifically 
to meet the reporting requirements? Please explain all such burdens in 
detail. Because all non-reporting requirements under section 20.19 will 
continue to apply to Non-Tier I Service Providers in the event the 
Commission adopts an exemption from the reporting requirements, 
including the obligation to offer a sufficient number of hearing aid-
compatible handset models to meet the applicable benchmarks, parties 
should be careful to distinguish burdens that will continue to be 
incurred in complying with our section 20.19 rules, even in the absence 
of reporting requirements, such as burdens related to ascertaining the 
hearing aid compatibility ratings of various handset models offered to 
meet deployment benchmarks.
    9. Alternative Size Standard. The Commission seeks comment on 
whether the scope of any exemption should be based on an alternative 
definition of carrier or size standard. Section 20.19 defines a Tier I 
carrier as ``a CMRS provider that offers such service nationwide.'' 
Accordingly, a Non-Tier I Service Provider exemption would cover all 
non-nationwide providers, including small and regional providers. 
Instead of exempting all non-nationwide service providers, the scope of 
the exemption could be based on the number of subscribers and apply if 
a service provider offers service to no more than, for example, 500,000 
subscribers, the number of subscribers used to define small (i.e., 
``Tier III'') status in other proceedings. The Commission seeks comment 
on the feasibility of such an alternative approach, and whether it 
offers any advantages over using the Tier I standard that is already 
incorporated generally throughout the section 20.19 hearing aid 
compatibility rules. Would a subscriber-based reporting threshold rely 
on 2001 subscriber counts, which are used in the Tier III definition 
used elsewhere in the Commission's rules, or instead be based on a 
provider's subscriber count in a given reporting year? Are there any 
other alternatives that the Commission should consider, such as 
expanding the exemption to all service providers or limiting the 
exemption to providers meeting the small size standard that is 
incorporated in the de minimis exception rule, i.e., providers with 
1,500 or fewer employees?
    10. Alternative Reporting Period or Certification. If the 
Commission determines that it would not serve the public interest to 
eliminate reporting requirements completely for Non-Tier I Service 
Providers, the Commission seeks comment on whether there are other ways 
to reduce the burdens associated with these requirements. Would it 
serve the public interest to require reporting less frequently? For 
instance, would requiring Non-Tier I Service Providers to file only 
once every three years instead of annually better balance the benefits 
of having such a reporting requirement against the burdens that it 
imposes? If so, what are the costs and benefits of revising the 
reporting requirements along these lines? Alternatively, rather than 
eliminating the reporting requirements or lengthening the interval 
between reports, would a better balance between the costs and benefits 
of the reporting requirements be achieved by requiring these service 
providers to submit a certification to the Commission, annually or 
otherwise, that they have met section 20.19 deployment benchmarks and 
other requirements, such as those on in-store testing and Web site 
postings? If so, should the certification form simply contain a box to 
check that the requirements have been met, or should the certification 
form request additional information, such as the web address of the 
hearing aid compatibility information published on the service 
provider's Web site, if applicable, and whether the service provider 
has received inquiries or complaints about the availability of hearing 
aid compatible handsets? What are the costs and benefits of using a 
certification approach instead of the existing reporting approach? 
Which approach better serves the public interest?
    11. Timing. Assuming that the Commission adopts a reporting 
exemption or modified reporting requirement, the Commission seeks 
comment on when such a change should become effective (e.g., as soon as 
is possible, after some period of time, or after some triggering 
event). Would it be in the public interest to have the change become 
effective as soon as possible, such that the Commission affords relief 
to Non-Tier I Service Providers at the soonest applicable filing 
deadline? Alternatively, would a better approach be to have the change 
become effective at some alternative point in time or after a certain 
trigger is met, (e.g., only after a Non-Tier I Service Provider meets 
either the 66 or 85 percent enhanced deployment benchmarks that the 
Commission adopted last year)? The Commission seeks commenters to 
explain how their proposed approach would best serve the public 
interest. The Commission also seeks comment on the costs and benefits 
of the various approaches.
    12. Related Changes. The Commission seeks comment on whether any 
changes to other aspects of the section 20.19 hearing aid compatibility 
requirements would be necessary or appropriate to accommodate or 
reflect a reporting exemption or modified reporting requirement for 
Non-Tier I Service Providers. For example, the de minimis exception 
rule, while otherwise exempting certain service providers from the 
requirements of the hearing aid compatibility rules, requires these 
providers to continue to submit annual FCC Form 655 reports. The 
Commission seeks comment on whether it makes sense to retain this 
requirement for service providers if only, e.g., Tier I carriers are 
required to submit annual FCC Form 655 reports. The Commission also 
seeks comment on any other changes to section 20.19 of the rules if the 
scope of the reporting requirement exemption depends on factors such as 
the number of subscribers. If the Commission adopts a reporting 
exemption or modified reporting requirement in this proceeding, what 
changes to the online FCC Form 655 or related instructions, if any, 
would be necessary or appropriate to implement the exemption?
    13. Other Updates. Finally, in light of various changes in the 
marketplace since these reporting requirements were adopted, the 
Commission seeks comment on additional ways to streamline or update 
hearing aid compatibility reporting for all service providers, 
including Tier I carriers.

[[Page 47666]]

Commenters should provide quantitative and qualitative cost and benefit 
analyses to support their proposals and to evaluate whether any aspects 
of the reporting requirements are unnecessary and outdated or could be 
streamlined or simplified to reduce burdens. Commenters should address, 
for example, whether reporting of handset offerings on a month-to-month 
basis and the level of details reported under our rules and the current 
FCC Form 655 continue to remain appropriate to protect consumers, or 
whether they can be modified to reduce burdens while preserving 
benefits to consumers. For example, should the Commission continue to 
require service providers to provide the model number and FCC ID 
directly associated with each model that they are reporting as 
compatible, together with the M and T rating that each such model has 
been certified as achieving under the ANSI C63.19 standard? Should the 
reports continue to include the air interface(s) and frequency band(s) 
over which each reported handset model operates? Do such reports need 
to track compliance on a month-to-month basis in order to protect 
consumers? Commenters should consider all additional ways to streamline 
and improve the quality and usefulness of the Form 655 and whether 
there are alternative, less costly ways to ensure that current and 
future deployment benchmarks are being met. For instance, does or could 
the Commission obtain hearing aid compatibility information as part of 
other data collections, such as from the manufacturer applications for 
equipment certifications of handsets? If commenters find that the 
currently collected information is insufficient, they should explain 
why and how it can be improved, or whether this information can be 
combined with other sources to streamline the hearing aid compatibility 
reporting requirements. Further, can third party sources, such as GARI, 
replace some of the information the Commission requires? Commenters 
should provide specific information about what information collected in 
the Form 655 is duplicative to other available Commission or third 
party data. Any proposed changes should include an analysis of costs 
and benefits of current and proposed collections, and how the proposed 
changes will continue to preserve the benefits to consumers from our 
policy objectives.

II. Procedural Matters

A. Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis

    14. As required by the Regulatory Flexibility Act of 1980, see 5 
U.S.C. 603, the Commission has prepared an Initial Regulatory 
Flexibility Analysis (IRFA) concerning the possible significant 
economic impact on small entities of the policies and rules proposed in 
this NPRM. Written public comments are requested on this IRFA. Comments 
must be identified as responses to the IRFA and must be filed by the 
deadlines for comments provided above. The Commission will send a copy 
of the NPRM, including this IRFA, to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of 
the Small Business Administration (SBA).
1. Need for, and Objectives of, the Proposed Rules
    15. For some time now, the Commission has required all covered 
device manufacturers and wireless service providers regardless of size 
to file annual reports on their offering of handsets that are 
compatible with hearing aids. Beginning in 2003, the Commission 
established a schedule requiring covered device manufacturers and 
wireless service providers to submit hearing aid compatibility reports 
every six months from 2004 through 2006, and then annually in 2007 and 
2008. In 2008, the Commission extended annual reporting requirements on 
an open-ended basis for covered device manufacturers and wireless 
service providers in order to verify compliance with the hearing aid 
compatibility rules. The Commission required the same reporting content 
from all covered entities, regardless of size, including those that 
come under the de minimis exception in the hearing aid compatibility 
rules. These reporting requirements have helped the Commission fulfill 
its responsibilities in monitoring the status of access to hearing aid-
compatible handsets, verifying compliance with the rules, and ensuring 
that the public has useful information on compatible handsets.
    16. In 2008, the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau (WTB), pursuant 
to delegated authority, made electronic FCC Form 655 available for 
service providers and device manufacturers to use in submitting hearing 
aid compatibility status reports, and made its use mandatory beginning 
with the filing deadline for device manufacturers on July 15, 2009.
    17. In this document, the Commission seeks comment on whether and 
to what extent to exempt wireless service providers that are not Tier I 
carriers (Non-Tier I Service Providers) from annual FCC Form 655 
reporting requirements, while maintaining these requirements for Tier I 
carriers and all handset manufacturers. The Commission states that 
numerous parties, especially rural and small wireless service 
providers, have asserted for some time that preparing these annual 
reports is burdensome. The Commission seeks comment on the burdens of 
compliance with the Form 655 reporting requirements for Non-Tier I 
Service Providers, and whether the benefits of the reporting 
requirement as applied to these providers continues to outweigh the 
costs or burdens the reporting requirement places on them. 
Specifically, the Commission seeks comment on whether Non-Tier I 
Service Provider reporting is necessary to meet the Commission's 
objectives of providing information to the public, assisting efforts to 
verify compliance, and monitoring the general state of hearing aid-
compatible handset deployment. With regard to monitoring the compliance 
of Non-Tier I Service Providers with the hearing aid compatibility 
rules, the Commission seeks comment on whether it should rely on the 
informal complaint process to help ensure Non-Tier I Service Providers 
continue to meet deployment benchmarks and other hearing aid 
compatibility requirements. The Commission also seeks comment on 
whether eliminating or modifying the reporting requirement would permit 
Non-Tier 1 Service Providers to save costs without an appreciable 
negative impact on the Commission's enforcement objectives.
    18. In this document, the Commission asks detailed questions to 
help it evaluate these issues, and asks parties to submit specific data 
in response to the Notice. In addition, the Commission seeks comment on 
the scope of the exemption, when the exemption should begin to apply, 
and whether other changes to the hearing aid compatibility rules or the 
FCC Form 655 may be necessary or appropriate to implement or reflect 
the new exemption.
2. Legal Basis
    19. The proposed actions for which comments have been sought in 
this document is authorized under sections 4(i), 303(r), and 710 of the 
Communications Act of 1934, as amended, 47 U.S.C. 154(i), 303(r), and 
610.
3. Description and Estimate of the Number of Small Entities to Which 
the Proposed Rules Will Apply
    20. The RFA directs agencies to provide a description of, and where 
feasible, an estimate of the number of small entities that may be 
affected by the proposed rules, if adopted. The RFA generally defines 
the term ``small entity'' as having the same meaning as

[[Page 47667]]

the terms ``small business,'' ``small organization,'' and ``small 
governmental jurisdiction.'' In addition, the term ``small business'' 
has the same meaning as the term ``small business concern'' under the 
Small Business Act. A ``small business concern'' is one which: (1) Is 
independently owned and operated; (2) is not dominant in its field of 
operation; and (3) satisfies any additional criteria established by the 
SBA. Below, the Commission provides a description of such small 
entities, as well as an estimate of the number of such small entities, 
where feasible.
    21. Small Businesses, Small Organizations, Small Governmental 
Jurisdictions. Our actions, over time, may affect small entities that 
are not easily categorized at present. We therefore describe here, at 
the outset, three broad groups of small entities that could be directly 
affected herein. First, while there are industry specific size 
standards for small businesses that are used in the regulatory 
flexibility analysis, according to data from the SBA's Office of 
Advocacy, in general a small business is an independent business having 
fewer than 500 employees. These types of small businesses represent 
99.9% of all businesses in the United States which translates to 28.8 
million businesses.
    22. Next, the type of small entity described as a ``small 
organization'' is generally ``any not-for-profit enterprise which is 
independently owned and operated and is not dominant in its field.'' 
Nationwide, as of August 2016, there were approximately 356,494 small 
organizations based on registration and tax data filed by nonprofits 
with Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
    23. Finally, the small entity described as a ``small governmental 
jurisdiction'' is defined generally as ``governments of cities, 
counties, towns, townships, villages, school districts, or special 
districts, with a population of less than fifty thousand.'' U.S. Census 
Bureau data from the 2012 Census of Governments indicates that there 
were 90,056 local governmental jurisdictions consisting of general 
purpose governments and special purpose governments in the United 
States. Of this number, there were 37, 132 general purpose governments 
(county, municipal and town or township) with populations of less than 
50,000 and 12,184 special purpose governments (independent school 
districts and special districts) with populations of less than 50,000. 
The 2012 U.S. Census Bureau data for most types of governments in the 
local government category shows that the majority of these governments 
have populations of less than 50,000. Based on this data we estimate 
that at least 49,316 local government jurisdictions fall in the 
category of ``small governmental jurisdictions.''
    24. Radio and Television Broadcasting and Wireless Communications 
Equipment Manufacturing. This industry comprises establishments 
primarily engaged in manufacturing radio and television broadcast and 
wireless communications equipment, including unlicensed devices. 
Examples of products made by these establishments are: transmitting and 
receiving antennas, cable television equipment, GPS equipment, pagers, 
cellular phones, mobile communications equipment, radio and television 
studio and broadcasting equipment. The Small Business Administration 
has established a size standard for this industry of 750 employees or 
less. U.S. Census data for 2012, shows that 841 establishments operated 
in this industry in that year. Of that number, 828 establishments 
operated with fewer than 1,000 employees, 7 establishments operated 
with between 1,000 and 2,499 employees and 6 establishments operated 
with 2,500 or more employees. Based on this data, the Commission 
concludes that a majority of manufacturers in this industry is small.
    25. Part 15 Handset Manufacturers. The Commission has not developed 
a definition of small entities applicable to unlicensed communications 
handset manufacturers. The SBA category of Radio and Television 
Broadcasting and Wireless Communications Equipment Manufacturing is the 
closest NAICS code category for Part 15 Handset Manufacturers. The 
Radio and Television Broadcasting and Wireless Communications Equipment 
Manufacturing industry is comprised of establishments primarily engaged 
in manufacturing radio and television broadcast and wireless 
communications equipment. Examples of products made by these 
establishments are: Transmitting and receiving antennas, cable 
television equipment, GPS equipment, pagers, cellular phones, mobile 
communications equipment, and radio and television studio and 
broadcasting equipment.'' The SBA has developed a small business size 
standard for Radio and Television Broadcasting and Wireless 
Communications Equipment Manufacturing, as firms having 750 or fewer 
employees. U.S. Census data for 2012, shows that 841 establishments 
operated in this industry in that year. Of that number, 828 
establishments operated with fewer than 1,000 employees, 7 
establishments operated with between 1,000 and 2,499 employees and 6 
establishments operated with 2,500 or more employees. Thus, under this 
size standard, the majority of firms can be considered small.
    26. Wireless Telecommunications Carriers (Except Satellite). This 
industry comprises establishments engaged in operating and maintaining 
switching and transmission facilities to provide communications via the 
airwaves. Establishments in this industry have spectrum licenses and 
provide services using that spectrum, such as cellular phone services, 
paging services, wireless Internet access, and wireless video 
services.'' The appropriate size standard under SBA rules is for the 
category Wireless Telecommunications Carriers (except Satellite) is 
that a business is small if it has 1,500 or fewer employees. For this 
industry, U.S. Census data for 2012 shows that there were 967 firms 
that operated for the entire year. Of this total, 955 firms had 
employment of 999 or fewer employees and 12 had employment of 1000 
employees or more. Thus under this category and the associated size 
standard, the Commission estimates that the majority of wireless 
telecommunications carriers (except satellite) are small entities.
    27. The Commission's own data--available in its Universal Licensing 
System--indicate that, as of October 25, 2016, there are 280 Cellular 
licensees that will be affected by our actions today. The Commission 
does not know how many of these licensees are small, as the Commission 
does not collect that information for these types of entities. 
Similarly, according to Commission data, 413 carriers reported that 
they were engaged in the provision of wireless telephony, including 
cellular service, Personal Communications Service (PCS), and 
Specialized Mobile Radio (SMR) Telephony services. Of these, an 
estimated 261 have 1,500 or fewer employees and 152 have more than 
1,500 employees. Thus, using available data, the Commission estimates 
that the majority of wireless firms can be considered small.
    28. Also included in this classification is Personal Radio 
Services, which provide short-range, low power radio for personal 
communications, radio signaling, and business communications not 
provided for in other services. The Personal Radio Services include 
spectrum licensed under part 95 of the Commission's rules. These 
services include Citizen Band Radio Service (``CB''), General Mobile 
Radio Service (``GMRS''), Radio Control

[[Page 47668]]

Radio Service (``R/C''), Family Radio Service (``FRS''), Wireless 
Medical Telemetry Service (``WMTS''), Medical Implant Communications 
Service (``MICS''), Low Power Radio Service (``LPRS''), and Multi-Use 
Radio Service (``MURS''). The Commission notes that many of the 
licensees in these services are individuals, and thus are not small 
entities. In addition, due to the mostly unlicensed and shared nature 
of the spectrum utilized in many of these services, the Commission 
lacks direct information upon which to base a more specific estimation 
of the number of small entities under an SBA definition that might be 
directly affected by our action.
    29. Wireless Resellers. The SBA has not developed a small business 
size standard specifically for Wireless Resellers. The SBA category of 
Telecommunications Resellers is the closest NAICS code category for 
wireless resellers. The Telecommunications Resellers industry comprises 
establishments engaged in purchasing access and network capacity from 
owners and operators of telecommunications networks and reselling wired 
and wireless telecommunications services (except satellite) to 
businesses and households. Establishments in this industry resell 
telecommunications; they do not operate transmission facilities and 
infrastructure. Mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) are included 
in this industry. Under the SBA's size standard, such a business is 
small if it has 1,500 or fewer employees. U.S. Census data for 2012 
shows that 1,341 firms provided resale services during that year. Of 
that number, all operated with fewer than 1,000 employees. Thus, under 
this category and the associated small business size standard, the 
majority of these resellers can be considered small entities.
4. Description of Projected Reporting, Recordkeeping, and Other 
Compliance Requirements for Small Entities
    30. The Commission is not proposing to impose any additional 
reporting or record keeping requirements. Rather, as discussed in the 
next section, the Commission is seeking comment on whether and to what 
extent it can reduce burdens on small wireless service providers by 
exempting them from hearing aid compatibility reporting requirements. 
Presently, these requirements include filing electronic FCC Form 655 on 
an annual basis. However, the Commission also asks whether it should 
require those wireless service providers who qualify for the new 
exemption to file a certification, either annually or otherwise, that 
states that they meet the hearing aid compatibility deployment 
benchmarks and other requirements.
5. Steps Taken To Minimize Significant Economic Impact on Small 
Entities and Significant Alternatives Considered
    31. The RFA requires an agency to describe any significant 
alternatives that it has considered in developing its approach, which 
may include the following four alternatives (among others): (1) The 
establishment of differing compliance or reporting requirements or 
timetables that take into account the resources available to small 
entities; (2) the clarification, consolidation, or simplification of 
compliance or reporting requirements under the rule for small entities; 
(3) the use of performance, rather than design, standards; and (4) an 
exemption from coverage of the rule, or any part thereof, for small 
entities.
    32. To assist the Commission's evaluation of the economic impact on 
small entities, as a result of actions that have been proposed in this 
Notice, and to better explore options and alternatives, the Commission 
has sought comment from the parties. In this Notice, the Commission has 
requested that commenters estimate the number of small entities that 
may be affected by any rule changes that might result from this Notice, 
to assist the Commission in analyzing the total number of potentially 
affected small entities. The Notice also seeks comment on whether and 
to what extent it should exempt wireless service providers that are not 
Tier I carriers from annual reporting requirements, while maintaining 
these requirements for Tier I carriers and all handset manufacturers. 
Under the Commission's current hearing aid compatibility rules, all 
covered wireless service providers regardless of size must 
electronically file FCC Form 655 with the Commission in January of each 
year. While these reports have helped the Commission meet several of 
its objectives, the Commission is seeking comment on whether the burden 
of filing this form for small wireless service providers outweighs the 
benefits that the form provides the Commission and the public. The 
Commission is seeking comment, in part, on whether and how this change 
would benefit small entities.
    33. The Commission expects to more fully consider the economic 
impact on small entities, following the review of comments filed in 
response to this document. In seeking comment on whether to exempt non-
nationwide wireless service providers from annual reporting 
requirements, the Commission considers several alternatives and steps 
it could take to implement its proposal. For example, the Commission 
invites comment on whether the hearing aid compatibility rules should 
incorporate an alternative definition or size standard on which a 
reporting exemption for small, rural, or regional service providers 
could be based. Specifically, the Commission asks whether the exemption 
could be based on a threshold number of subscribers. The Commission 
also seeks comment on whether to limit the new exemption to wireless 
service providers who meet the small size standard that is incorporated 
in the de minimis rule, i.e., wireless service providers with 1500 or 
fewer employees. The Commission further seeks comment on the timing of 
when such an exemption should go into effect. Finally, the Commission 
asks whether to require those wireless service providers who qualify 
for the new exemption to file a certification, either annually or 
otherwise, that states that they meet the hearing aid compatibility 
deployment benchmarks and other requirements. The Commission invites 
comment on ways in which the Commission can achieve its goals, but at 
the same time further reduce the burdens on small entities.
6. Federal Rules That May Duplicate, Overlap, or Conflict With the 
Proposed Rules
    34. None.

B. Initial Paperwork Reduction Act Analysis

    35. This document contains proposed modified information collection 
requirements. The Commission, as part of its continuing effort to 
reduce paperwork burdens, invites the general public and the Office of 
Management and Budget (OMB) to comment on the information collection 
requirements contained in this document, as required by the Paperwork 
Reduction Act of 1995. In addition, pursuant to the Small Business 
Paperwork Relief Act of 2002, the Commission seeks specific comment on 
how the Commission might further reduce the information collection 
burden for small business concerns with fewer than 25 employees.

C. Other Procedural Matters

1. Ex Parte Rules--Permit-but-Disclose
    36. The proceeding that the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking initiates 
shall be treated as a ``permit-but-disclose'' proceeding in accordance 
with the Commission's ex parte rules. Persons making ex parte 
presentations must file

[[Page 47669]]

a copy of any written presentation or a memorandum summarizing any oral 
presentation within two business days after the presentation (unless a 
different deadline applicable to the Sunshine period applies). Persons 
making oral ex parte presentations are reminded that memoranda 
summarizing the presentation must (1) list all persons attending or 
otherwise participating in the meeting at which the ex parte 
presentation was made, and (2) summarize all data presented and 
arguments made during the presentation. If the presentation consisted 
in whole or in part of the presentation of data or arguments already 
reflected in the presenter's written comments, memoranda or other 
filings in the proceeding, the presenter may provide citations to such 
data or arguments in his or her prior comments, memoranda, or other 
filings (specifying the relevant page and/or paragraph numbers where 
such data or arguments can be found) in lieu of summarizing them in the 
memorandum. Documents shown or given to Commission staff during ex 
parte meetings are deemed to be written ex parte presentations and must 
be filed consistent with rule 1.1206(b). In proceedings governed by 
rule 1.49(f) or for which the Commission has made available a method of 
electronic filing, written ex parte presentations and memoranda 
summarizing oral ex parte presentations, and all attachments thereto, 
must be filed through the electronic comment filing system available 
for that proceeding, and must be filed in their native format (e.g., 
.doc, .xml, .ppt, searchable .pdf). Participants in this proceeding 
should familiarize themselves with the Commission's ex parte rules.

III. Ordering Clauses

    37. Accordingly, it is ordered, pursuant to sections 4(i), 303(r), 
and 710 of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended 47 U.S.C. 154(i), 
303(r), and 610, that this Notice of Proposed Rulemaking is hereby 
adopted.
    38. It is further ordered that pursuant to applicable procedures 
set forth in sections 1.415 and 1.419 of the Commission's rules, 47 CFR 
1.415, 1.419, interested parties may file comments on this Notice of 
Proposed Rulemaking on or before [thirty days after the date of 
publication in the Federal Register], and reply comments on or before 
[forty-five days after the date of publication in the Federal 
Register].
    39. It is further ordered that the Commission's Consumer & 
Governmental Affairs Bureau, Reference Information Center, shall send a 
copy of this Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, including the Initial 
Regulatory Flexibility Analysis, to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of 
the Small Business Administration.

List of Subjects in 47 CFR Part 20

    Communications common carriers, Communications equipment, Radio.

Federal Communications Commission.
Katura Jackson,
Federal Register Liaison Officer, Office of the Secretary.

Proposed Rules

    For the reasons discussed in the preamble, the Federal 
Communications Commission proposes to amend part 20 of title 47 of the 
Code of Federal Regulations as follows:

PART 20--COMMERCIAL MOBILE SERVICES

0
1. The authority citation for Part 20 continues to read as follows:

    Authority:  47 U.S.C. 151, 152(a) 154(i), 157, 160, 201, 214, 
222, 251(e), 301, 302, 303, 303(b), 303(r), 307, 307(a), 309, 
309(j)(3), 316, 316(a), 332, 610, 615, 615a, 615b, 615c, unless 
otherwise noted.

0
2. Section 20.19 is amended by revising paragraph (i)(1) to read as 
follows:


Sec.  20.19  Hearing aid-compatible mobile handsets.

* * * * *
    (i) Reporting requirements--(1) Reporting dates. Manufacturers 
shall submit reports on efforts toward compliance with the requirements 
of this section on an annual basis on July 15. Tier I carriers shall 
submit reports on an annual basis on January 15. Service providers that 
are not Tier I carriers are not required to submit reports. Information 
in the reports must be up-to-date as of the last day of the calendar 
month preceding the due date of the report.
* * * * *
[FR Doc. 2017-22189 Filed 10-12-17; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 6712-01-P