The FCC passed new rules Thursday to expand its hearing aid compatibility rules to include IP-based communications services like Wi-Fi Calling and Voice-over-LTE (VoLTE).
The new rules will also “require that future technologies comply with current and future hearing aid compatibility rules” and encourage manufacturers to consider hearing aid compatibility from the start of the product design process, “ensuring that consumers with hearing loss are not always trying to catch up to technology and providing industry with additional regulatory certainty,” the FCC said.
Additionally, the FCC on Thursday passed a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that seeks comment from industry players on a previously developed consensus plan that would ensure “all wireless handsets are accessible to and usable by people who use hearing aid devices and cochlear implants.” The goal of the plan, the FCC said, is to “give consumers with hearing loss the same range of device choices available to any other consumer while at the same time preserving industry’s ability to innovate.”
Under current FCC rules, carriers are only required to ensure that the lesser of fifty percent or eight of their handset devices are compatible with hearing aids. The consensus plan seeks to raise the bar over a specific period of time so that 100 percent of all devices are hearing aid-compatible.
In a Thursday article responding to the news on the company’s website, Verizon’s Jeff Kramer said the carrier welcomes the consensus plan.
“While Verizon has historically exceeded the existing regulatory requirements for our devices, we agreed that the FCC’s accessibility rules haven’t kept pace with developments in the wireless industry,” Kramer wrote. “The timelines agreed upon offer a clear route to meeting the ultimate goal of 100% (hearing aid compatible) handset availability, set by the Commission, advocates and providers… Today’s action by the FCC to address hearing aid compatibility issues is as much a triumph of collaboration, highlighting the value of partnerships as it is a rulemaking to enhance accessibility.”
Filed Under: Industry regulations