Previously, entities covered by the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC or Commission) hearing aid compatibility rules were required to submit a status report, via the FCC Form 655, by January 15 of each year. This requirement was eliminated by the FCC and replaced with a certification filing in a November 2018 Report and Order. Additional information regarding the Commission’s order can also be found here. Consequently, service providers do not need to file the Form 655 in 2019.

The service provider Form 655 filing has been replaced with a new annual certification filing and expanded website compliance requirements. The 2019 service provider certification, covering calendar year 2018, currently is pending Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) approval and the certification filing deadline for 2019 has not yet been established. Beginning in 2020, the certification will be due by January 15 each year.

Providers have until 30 days after OMB approval of the rules to complete website updates.

More details on the new requirements and covered entities can be found below.

Service Provider Hearing Aid Compatibility Annual Certification (**NEW**)

Providers of digital mobile service in the United States are now required to submit an annual certification stating whether or not the provider is in full compliance with Commission hearing aid compatibility rules, explaining any instances of noncompliance, and providing information regarding hearing aid compatible (“HAC”) handsets offered during the time period covered by the certification.

The Commission has not developed a form for the certification filing but has offered sample language for use in the certification. Among other requirements, the sample language requires the certification be executed by a company executive with knowledge of the filer’s compliance and be made under penalty of perjury.

Timeline: Service providers will need to submit a certification in 2019 but the deadline has not yet been established pending OMB approval of the filing requirement.

Service Provider Hearing Aid Compatibility Website Content Requirement (**NEW**)

In addition to existing website requirements addressed in current Commission HAC rules, once the new rules take effect, providers of digital mobile service in the United States that operate a publicly-accessible web site will be required to provide specific information on their websites. A few of the new website information requirements include:

1. Listing all non-HAC handset models currently offered, the level of functionality of such models, and the FCC IDs of both HAC and non-HAC handsets.

2. Providing a link to the Global Accessibility Reporting Initiative (GARI) website which has details on HAC and non-HAC devices; or providing a clearly available list of HAC devices that the service provider previously offered for sale in the past two years but are no longer sold.

3. Providing a link to the current FCC web page with information about the wireless HAC rules and service provider obligations.

Service providers also will be subject to specific handset information retention requirements and website update deadlines.

Timeline: Required website content must be posted within 30 days after notice of OMB approval of the new rules. OMB approval is currently pending.

Who is Covered:

The annual HAC certification and website content requirements apply to all digital mobile service providers within the scope of FCC rule 20.19, including mobile virtual network operators (MVNO) and resellers. Note that providers that are otherwise exempt from HAC rules, pursuant to the de minimis exception of Rule 20.19(e), still are required to file the HAC certification. However, de minimis providers continue to be exempt from the website content requirement.

Rule 20.19, excerpted below, applies to providers of digital mobile service in the United States that meet the following specifications:

(i) to the extent that they offer terrestrial mobile service that enables real-time voice communications among members of the public or substantial portion of the public, including VoIP services; and

(ii) such service is provided over frequencies in the 698 MHz to 6 GHz bands.

Service providers should be sure to review the FCC rules to confirm if the service provider is subject to the HAC requirements and to identify the service provider’s compliance obligations.