FCC proposes changes to equipment approval process

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has proposed important changes to its equipment testing and authorization program under Part 15 and Part 68 of its rules that it says will streamline the approval process and expedite the introduction of new devices to the market.

In a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking issued in February 2013, the Commission proposed a number of changes to its existing equipment authorization program. The key changes include:

  • TCB Authority—The FCC will no longer directly issue any grants of equipment authorization. Instead, telecommunications certification bodies (TCBs) will authorize all products subject to certification. TCBs will also be granted the authority to dismiss equipment authorization applications not in accordance with the Commission’s requirements. The Commission will also establish a “pre-approval guidance” procedure for TCBs to follow when evaluating types of equipment for which rules, requirements and/or measurement procedures are unclear.
  • Post-Market Surveillance—The Commission will delineate post-market surveillance requirements of TCBs on the number and types of samples that a TCB must test. TCBs will also be authorized to request samples of equipment that they have previously certified directly from the certificate grantee.
  • Assessing TCB Performance—The Commission proposes to appoint NIST (formerly the National Institute of Standards and Technology) as the designating authority for TCBs in the U.S. The Commission has also outlined a process to address TCB non-performance issues, short of the complete withdrawal of TCB designation.
  • TCB Accreditation Standards—Under the proposed rule changes, TCBs would be accredited in accordance with the requirements of ISO/IEC 17011 and ISO/IEC 17065. These standards replace ISO/IEC Guides 58, 61 and 65.
  • Testing Laboratories Accreditation—The FCC has proposed that all laboratories that test equipment subject to certification or approval under any of its rules be accredited to ISO/IEC 17025.
  • Measurement Procedures—The Commission proposes to incorporate the requirements of ANSI C63.10-2009 into its rules as the procedure used to determine the compliance of intentional radiators, and ANSI C63.4-2009 as the procedure for assessing unintentional radiators.

The Commission hinted at the scope of changes in mid-2012, when it lifted restrictions limiting equipment identification codes to not more than three characters. In that Order, the Commission noted that it was exploring additional ways to improve the equipment authorization program, “including clarifying or modifying the administrative requirements and responsibilities of the Telecommunications Certification Bodies that perform equipment certification.”

Comments on the Commission’s proposed rule changes are due by late March.

Read the complete text of the FCC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking regarding important changes to its equipment testing and authorization program under Part 15 and Part 68.