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Wireless Carriers Ask for HAC Compliance Extensions

Alexandria, Va. (September 23, 2005) In an amazing and disturbing 11th hour concerted action, 16 small wireless carriers filed last-minute requests with the FCC to extend a September 16, 2005 deadline to comply with FCC issued hearing aid compatibility (HAC) rules.

Under current FCC rules, these small Tier III providers must offer at least 2 HAC compliant handset models per air interface by the deadline. The latest round of petitioners offered various reasons for failing to meet the deadline, but most said that they buy phones through wholesalers and that the Tier I carriers will get all the M3/U3 phones. Interestingly, the majority of the petitions were filed by three law firms, indicating a general awareness of the problem at some point well before the September 16th deadline.

The FCC has already granted 2 waiver requests for large carriers. The FCC has temporarily adopted recommendations by ATIS and Cingular, stating that dual handsets which meet the U3 rating at 1900 MHz, but not at 850 MHz, will be considered HAC-compliant until next August. According to an FCC spokesperson, the agency cannot determine whether or not the smallest carriers (Tier III) were in violation of the HAC rules, since their petitions provided to the FCC had not been acted upon by the Commission.

In commenting on the petitions, HIA Special FCC Counsel Peter Tannenwald observed, HIA is pleased that T-Mobile will be able to offer at least one compliant handset immediately and will increase that number in a short time frame. The quick timetable and reporting conditions will help advance the primary goal, which is to enable hearing aid users to enjoy the full benefits of cellphone service. But HIA is very disturbed about the large number of last-second waiver requests from smaller carriers, who have not explained why they cannot obtain compliant handsets when the larger carriers are already offering them. We plan to review and comment on these requests.

HIA is assessing all aspects of the current situation and will advise on next steps.

For more information, visit www.hearing.org

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