First TTY-to-RTT Transitions Dates Effective in 2017

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Carriers and manufacturers will have the flexibility to transition from outdated TTY to Real-Time Text (RTT) technology to over time. The FCC this week released the text of the rulemaking it passed last week. The first deadlines kick-in a year from now.

RTT allows text characters to be sent as they are being created, sent simultaneously with voice, and permits the use of off-the-shelf end user devices to make text telephone calls. Since the 1970s, TTY has provided the only means for the deaf and hard-of-hearing to send and receive texts over the public switched telephone network. However, transitions from circuit switched to IP-based networks and from copper to wireless and fiber infrastructure affected the quality and utility of TTY technology.

Upgrading the technology became part of the Commission’s National Broadband Plan in 2010, and AT&T filed a petition in 2015, asking the agency to allow RTT to replace TTY technology over wireless IP-based networks for voice services. The FCC now says RTT communications must be interoperable across networks and devices, backward-compatible with TTY technology and support 911 communications.

By December 31, 2017, each Tier I Commercial Mobile Radio Services (CMRS) provider and, by June 30, 2020, each non-Tier I provider (except resellers) choosing to support RTT to replace TTY over IP shall do so either through a downloadable RTT application or plug-in or by implementing native RTT functionality into its core network. They must offer at least one handset model that supports RTT and include the requirement to support RTT in future design specs.

Manufacturers that provide devices for CMRS providers’ IP-based voice services and that choose to support RTT in lieu of TTY technology shall implement RTT in new equipment by December 31, 2018, if readily achievable or unless not achievable, as applicable. By December 31, 2019, each Tier I CMRS provider and, by June 30, 2021, each non-Tier I CMRS provider (including resellers) choosing to support RTT in lieu of TTY over IP facilities shall support RTT for all new devices.

Carriers are subject to the same timelines unless a manufacturer cannot support RTT on that carrier’s network. Carriers and manufacturers will conduct consumer outreach to explain how RTT works.

The agency has suggested the year 2021, as an appropriate sunset of carriers’ obligations to end TTY support to ensure backward compatibility between TTY and RTT; it seeks comment on this date in a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. Comments to CG Docket 16-145 and GN Docket 15-178 are due 30 days after Federal Register publication.

December 21, 2016

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