FCC Proposes Amending Rules for Hearing Aid Compatibility

November 13, 2015

A Federal Communications Commission proposal to amend hearing aid compatibility rules is coming under fire from one commissioner, who is concerned that some of the ideas expressed in the plan would allow for “inappropriate” FCC intervention in the standards development process.

Commissioner Michael O’Rielly voiced his concerns related to an FCC proposal intended to amend hearing aid compatibility rules. Its goal is to ensure that Americans with hearing loss are able to access wireless and wireline communications services through a wide array of phones.

To achieve this, the FCC would incorporate into its rules a revised industry standard developed by the Telecommunications Industry Association to help people with hearing loss select wireline phones with sufficient volume control. It also proposes to adopt a volume control rule and standard for wireless handsets, and to require manufacturers to use the 2011 American National Standards Institute wireless HAC standard for certifying future handsets.

O’Rielly says he mostly supports seeking comment on potential changes in volume control standards and other hearing aid compatibility rules. However, he raised concerns over seeking comment on how to implement the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act.

O’Rielly disagrees with how the commission may interpret Congress’s directive that the technical standard must be developed in consultation with standard-setting bodies.

“So, let me get this straight, staff will be able to designate an unlimited number of entities to sway the decisions of a so-called independent standards setting body and then have the right to codify the standard that they influenced. That could not possibly be the Commission’s, or Congress’s, intent and places the Commission’s objective to be technologically neutral at great risk,” he says.

Comments are due by Dec. 29. Read the notice of proposed rulemaking here: www.fdanews.com/11-15-FCC-NPRM.pdf. — Jonathon Shacat