RTG Urges the FCC to require manufacturers to provide HAC-rated devices directly to smaller providers

The Rural Telecommunications Group (RTG) filed comments yesterday regarding the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC or Commission) proposed rules governing hearing aid-compatible (HAC) mobile handsets, as well as the effects of new legislation on those rules. RTG argues that the Commission should implement its expanded, non-CMRS HAC requirements in a measured and multi-phase manner, similar to how the FCC implemented its HAC requirements for CMRS carriers. RTG also makes the case that the FCC should provide a longer transition period for rural and small carriers and require manufacturers to provide HAC-rated devices directly to smaller providers.

“The fact is that small, rural carriers have, at best, second-hand access to handsets and devices,” said Carri Bennet, RTG’s General Counsel. “In the past the Commission has recognized that rural carriers lack market clout and access to handsets and it should take this into account as rural carriers struggle against exclusive handset arrangements that manufacturers have with the largest, nationwide carriers.”

“So long as small, rural wireless carriers must rely on third-party vendors carrying inventory that may be outmoded by several months with respect to HAC ratings, then such carriers should not be required to meet deployment benchmarks for entirely new types of handsets on the same schedule as Tier I carriers,” added Carri Bennet.

RTG also noted that independent retailers play a valuable role in selling inventory and that such “informal” retail locations should not be subject to the same stringent HAC requirements as providers as long as consumers are made aware that they can get “full service” HAC expertise and options at provider-based retail operations.

About RTG – Headquartered in Washington, DC, the Rural Telecommunications Group is a trade association representing rural wireless carriers who serve less than 100,000 subscribers. RTG’s members have joined together to speed delivery of new, efficient and innovative telecommunications technologies to remote and underserved communities. www.ruraltelecomgroup.org @RTGwireless

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