United States Code

USC most recently checked for updates: Apr 22, 2024

§ 610.
Telephone service for disabled
(a)
Establishment of regulations

The Commission shall establish such regulations as are necessary to ensure reasonable access to telephone service by persons with impaired hearing.

(b)
Hearing aid compatibility requirements
(1)
Except as provided in paragraphs (2) and (3) and subsection (c), the Commission shall require that customer premises equipment described in this paragraph provide internal means for effective use with hearing aids that are designed to be compatible with telephones which meet established technical standards for hearing aid compatibility. Customer premises equipment described in this paragraph are the following:
(A)
All essential telephones.
(B)
All telephones manufactured in the United States (other than for export) more than one year after August 16, 1988, or imported for use in the United States more than one year after such date.
(C)
All customer premises equipment used with advanced communications services that is designed to provide 2-way voice communication via a built-in speaker intended to be held to the ear in a manner functionally equivalent to a telephone, subject to the regulations prescribed by the Commission under subsection (e).
(2)
(A)
The regulations prescribed by the Commission under paragraph (1) shall exempt from the requirements established pursuant to subparagraphs (B) and (C) of paragraph (1) only—
(i)
telephones used with public mobile services;
(ii)
telephones used with private radio services; and
(iii)
secure telephones.
(B)
The Commission shall periodically assess the appropriateness of continuing in effect the exemptions for telephones and other customer premises equipment described in subparagraph (A) of this paragraph. The Commission shall revoke or otherwise limit any such exemption if the Commission determines that—
(i)
such revocation or limitation is in the public interest;
(ii)
continuation of the exemption without such revocation or limitation would have an adverse effect on hearing-impaired individuals;
(iii)
compliance with the requirements of subparagraph (B) or (C) of paragraph (1) is technologically feasible for the telephones to which the exemption applies; and
(iv)
compliance with the requirements of subparagraph (B) or (C) of paragraph (1) would not increase costs to such an extent that the telephones to which the exemption applies could not be successfully marketed.
(3)
The Commission may, upon the application of any interested person, initiate a proceeding to waive the requirements of paragraph (1)(B) of this subsection with respect to new telephones, or telephones associated with a new technology or service. The Commission shall not grant such a waiver unless the Commission determines, on the basis of evidence in the record of such proceeding, that such telephones, or such technology or service, are in the public interest, and that (A) compliance with the requirements of paragraph (1)(B) is technologically infeasible, or (B) compliance with such requirements would increase the costs of the telephones, or of the technology or service, to such an extent that such telephones, technology, or service could not be successfully marketed. In any proceeding under this paragraph to grant a waiver from the requirements of paragraph (1)(B), the Commission shall consider the effect on hearing-impaired individuals of granting the waiver. The Commission shall periodically review and determine the continuing need for any waiver granted pursuant to this paragraph.
(4)
For purposes of this subsection—
(A)
the term “essential telephones” means only coin-operated telephones, telephones provided for emergency use, and other telephones frequently needed for use by persons using such hearing aids;
(B)
the term “telephones used with public mobile services” means telephones and other customer premises equipment used in whole or in part with air-to-ground radiotelephone services, cellular radio telecommunications services, offshore radio, rural radio service, public land mobile telephone service, or other common carrier radio communication services covered by title 47 of the Code of Federal Regulations, or any functionally equivalent unlicensed wireless services;
(C)
the term “telephones used with private radio services” means telephones and other customer premises equipment used in whole or in part with private land mobile radio services and other communications services characterized by the Commission in its rules as private radio services; and
(D)
the term “secure telephones” means telephones that are approved by the United States Government for the transmission of classified or sensitive voice communications.
(c)
Technical standards

The Commission shall establish or approve such technical standards as are required to enforce this section. A telephone or other customer premises equipment that is compliant with relevant technical standards developed through a public participation process and in consultation with interested consumer stakeholders (designated by the Commission for the purposes of this section) will be considered hearing aid compatible for purposes of this section, until such time as the Commission may determine otherwise. The Commission shall consult with the public, including people with hearing loss, in establishing or approving such technical standards. The Commission may delegate this authority to an employee pursuant to section 155(c) of this title. The Commission shall remain the final arbiter as to whether the standards meet the requirements of this section.

(d)
Labeling of packaging materials for equipment

The Commission shall establish such requirements for the labeling of packaging materials for equipment as are needed to provide adequate information to consumers on the compatibility between telephones and hearing aids.

(e)
Costs and benefits; encouragement of use of currently available technology

In any rulemaking to implement the provisions of this section, the Commission shall specifically consider the costs and benefits to all telephone users, including persons with and without hearing loss. The Commission shall ensure that regulations adopted to implement this section encourage the use of currently available technology and do not discourage or impair the development of improved technology. In implementing the provisions of subsection (b)(1)(C), the Commission shall use appropriate timetables or benchmarks to the extent necessary (1) due to technical feasibility, or (2) to ensure the marketability or availability of new technologies to users.

(f)
Periodic review of regulations; retrofitting

The Commission shall periodically review the regulations established pursuant to this section. Except for coin-operated telephones and telephones provided for emergency use, the Commission may not require the retrofitting of equipment to achieve the purposes of this section.

(g)
Recovery of reasonable and prudent costs

Any common carrier or connecting carrier may provide specialized terminal equipment needed by persons whose hearing, speech, vision, or mobility is impaired. The State commission may allow the carrier to recover in its tariffs for regulated service reasonable and prudent costs not charged directly to users of such equipment.

(h)
Rule of construction

Nothing in the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 shall be construed to modify the Commission’s regulations set forth in section 20.19 of title 47 of the Code of Federal Regulations, as in effect on October 8, 2010.

(June 19, 1934, ch. 652, title VII, § 710, formerly title VI, § 610, as added Pub. L. 97–410, § 3, Jan. 3, 1983, 96 Stat. 2043; renumbered title VII, § 710, Pub. L. 98–549, § 6(a), Oct. 30, 1984, 98 Stat. 2804; amended Pub. L. 100–394, § 3, Aug. 16, 1988, 102 Stat. 976; Pub. L. 103–414, title III, § 304(a)(16), Oct. 25, 1994, 108 Stat. 4297; Pub. L. 111–260, title I, § 102, Oct. 8, 2010, 124 Stat. 2753.)
cite as: 47 USC 610