FCC Seeks Comment On ATIS HAC Waiver

On April 3, 2023, the FCC published in the Federal Register a Petition for Waiver filed by ATIS on December 16, 2022 seeking a limited, interim waiver of 47 C.F.R. § 20.19(b)(1) and 47 C.F.R. § 20.19(b)(3) for all entities subject to the hearing aid compatibility (“HAC”) rules to allow wireless handsets to satisfy a reduced volume control testing methodology for HAC certification.

The volume control testing methodology was adopted in 2021 as part of the FCC’s transition to the 2019 ANSI standard.  The HAC Task Force has determined there are significant and material problems with the 2019 ANSI methodology used to test volume control such that every single device (including devices that are currently HAC-certified) failed to pass the 2019 ANSI standard.  The new standard relies on pulsed-noise signals and is not compatible with many modern codecs.  Alternative testing has demonstrated that the handsets produce sufficient volume control for individuals with hearing loss.  ATIS notes that the flaw is solely in the way it is measured, not in the way that the volume control is implemented.

The waiver requests that the Commission consider handsets to be compliant toward the HAC deployment benchmarks if they:

  1. Meet the following clauses of the 2019 ANSI Standard:
    • RF Immunity Test (M – “clause 4”) and
    • T-Coil Compatibility Test (T – “clause 6”);
  2. Pass conversational gain for all available codecs and air interface combinations at the 2N level;
  3. Obtain passing results for at least one of the device’s available codecs for the distortion and frequency response requirements; and
  4. Limit test codecs to those that are in scope for TIA 5050, which include narrowband and wideband codecs.

ATIS requests that the FCC grant an interim waiver while the FCC considers the proposals in the HAC Task Force Final Report to reach 100% hearing aid compatibility (which included a proposed solution to this problem) to ensure that new HAC handsets continue to be made available to consumers.  ATIS notes that failing to grant a waiver will likely result in many providers refusing to offer new devices capable of operating on newly auction spectrum, as many providers today refuse to offer a device if it is not HAC certified to ensure they can meet the Commissions 85% benchmarks.

Comments are due on or before May 3, 2023.

Reply comments are due on or before May 18, 2023.

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