FCC Grants Waiver of 2019 ATIS Standard

On September 29, 2023, the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau released an Order granting the Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions (“ATIS”)’s request for a limited waiver of the FCC’s hearing aid compatibility rules with respect to the volume control technical standard that handset manufacturers use to certify handsets as hearing aid-compatible under the 2019 ANSI Standard.

The Bureau found a waiver was in the public interest as strict compliance with the rules would frustrate the FCC’s goals in ensuring that manufacturers can certify handsets as compatible with the 2019 ANSI Standard and individuals with disabilities can benefit from handsets certified under the updated standard.  The Bureau agreed with ATIS’ arguments that the 2019 ANSI Standard’s methodology for measuring volume control would likely result in no handset models being certified under the 2019 ANSI Standard.  The Bureau thus agreed that a waiver of the volume control testing methodology was warranted.

Instead of testing under the 2019 ATIS Standard, the Bureau adopted the proposed testing methodology outlined by ATIS in its September 12, 2023 Ex Parte Letter.  The Bureau finds that these modified measurement standards will ensure that new handset models can be certified as hearing aid-compatible using the 2019 ANSI Standard before the exclusive use transition period ends on December 5, 2023.

The waiver is effective on release of the Order and is limited to two years.  The Bureau expects that parties will work together to develop an improved volume control standard that can be incorporated into the rules before the waiver period ends.  ATIS is required to file a status letter on the progress of the development of new standard on the one-year anniversary of the release date of the Order.

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