On December 22, 2020, the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau (the “Bureau”) released an Order granting United States Cellular Corporation’s (“US Cellular”) request for an extension of their waiver of the FCC’s accessibility rules that require providers to support text telephony (“TTY”) technology.  In 2015, the FCC granted several waiver requests of the accessibility rules that required support of TTY technology for providers that were in the process of upgrading their analog, circuit-switched networks, so as to allow those providers to upgrade their networks without the immediate burden of TTY compliance.  That waiver was extended on April 16, 2016 for CCA members who opted in to CCA’s request, which included US Cellular.

 

After granting the extension, the FCC modified the TTY rules and adopted a TTY-RTT Transition timeline to allow service providers to transition to the new technology and comply with the FCC’s new rules.  US Cellular’s waiver of TTY support requirements, initially set to expire on December 31, 2017, was subsequently extended to June 30, 2020.  US Cellular requested a further extension of the waiver, to December 31, 2020, due to major, unexpected difficulties and delays in upgrading its network to support TTY technology.

 

The Bureau found good cause to waive the TTY obligations through October 26, 2020, the date of US Cellular’s consumer launch of its RTT service.  The Bureau concluded that US Cellular’s difficulties and delays were major inhibitors to successfully implementing its RTT service and were unexpected, such that US Cellular could not have avoided them.  The Bureau did express concern for US Cellular’s late start to deploying RTT by not beginning work until 2019 and its decision to move for an extension of the waiver only a short time before the waiver was set to expire, but overall found that these did not rise to the level of concern that would justify denial of the extension.

 

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