TTY-to-RTT Transition Rules Effective This Month

The rule changes the FCC adopted in December concerning the transition from text telephone technology to real-time text communication over wireless internet protocol-enabled networks become effective on February 22.

Carriers and manufacturers can transition from TTY to RTT over time, however the first deadline comes up at the end of this year. TTY originated in the ‘70s, providing a 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.  

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.

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. The FCC 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 provider 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. Non-Tier I providers (except resellers) must comply by June 30, 2020.  

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 by February 22.     

Federal Register publication triggered the effective dates.  

February 10, 2017

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