Continuing its efforts to remove barriers to communications, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has proposed amending its Part 15 rules, broadening its definition of auditory assistance devices to include devices used for simultaneous language interpretation.
In an Order and Notice of Proposed Rulemaking published in September 2011, the Commission responded to a petition for declaratory ruling filed by Williams Sound Corporation, a provider of auditory assistance devices. In its petition, Williams requested that the FCC clarify the allowable uses of simultaneous language interpretation devices. Such devices are expressly permitted under Part 95 of the Commission’s rules to operate in the 216-217 MHz band. But Part 15 does not specifically mention such devices, referencing only the broader category of auditory assistance devices which are permitted to operate in the 72-76 MHz bands.
The Williams’ petition requested that the Commission issue a declaratory ruling to expressly permit the operation of language interpretation devices under both Part 15 and Part 95. However, the Commission determined that a declaratory ruling would expand the scope of permitted uses so significantly as to constitute a change in the rules themselves, an action beyond the scope or intent of such a ruling. Instead, acknowledging the merits of the Williams’ petition, the Commission determined that a formal change in the rules themselves warranted consideration, hence the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.