Verizon gets temporary waiver on TTY technology for VoIP calls

The FCC has granted Verizon (NYSE: VZ) a temporary waiver of the commission's requirements to support text telephony (TTY) technology in IP-based services, similar to the one rival AT&T (NYSE: T) obtained in October.

The FCC said it found good cause was demonstrated to grant Verizon's waiver request and finds it to be similarly situated to AT&T with respect for its need for a waiver. But it also wants Verizon to supply more information about the steps it plans for developing an alternative accessibility solution for those with hearing disabilities. The carrier will, within 90 days, need to supply more specifics about its plans to deploy real-time text (RTT) or an alternative text-based solution.

AT&T set the wheels in motion in June when it filed a petition asking the commission to initiate a rulemaking proceeding to authorize the substitution of a newer form of text communication, RTT, as an alternative solution to TTY because TTY can't reliably be supported with IP networks. TTY was invented in the 1960s and was designed to allow a user to type on a keyboard and have those tones broadcast on a phone line to a user on the other end, thus supporting non-voice conversations. 

AT&T actually delayed the launch of its Wi-Fi calling service while it waited for its waiver request to get approved. At that time, AT&T pointed at Sprint (NYSE: S) and T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS), saying they were acting in defiance of the FCC by already providing and advertising Wi-Fi calling services without even having sought or obtained a waiver of the commission's TTY rules.

The FCC granted AT&T's waiver request in October and said it would look most favorably on other waiver requests that also specify the steps the carrier is taking or intends to take to ensure that the accessibility text alternatives it plans to deploy will be accessible to people with disabilities. Days after receiving its waiver, AT&T launched Wi-Fi calling on Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 6s and 6s Plus with iOS 9 installed. 

Verizon started offering Wi-Fi calling on Apple's iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 6s or 6s Plus on Oct. 15 via a messaging app that customers can download.

Meanwhile, Verizon will need to communicate to its customers via its website, billing statements and other materials that TTY technology will not be supported for calls to 911 over IP-based services. The commission wants to make sure there is no expectation on the part of consumers with disabilities that TTY technology will be supported by IP-based services and to make sure consumers know that alternative accessible telecom options exist.

Verizon's waiver, like AT&T's, will expire Dec. 31, 2017, or upon the effective data or rules providing for alternative IP-based accessibility solutions.

For  more:
- see this FCC filing
- see this ZDNet article

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