Head-start for the Holiday

With many people taking time off for the Thanksgiving holiday, we are announcing the scheduled agenda for the Commission’s December open meeting a few days early.

The first item up for consideration will be a proposed Order to enable a universal and integrated text solution for people with disabilities who rely on text communications to make telephone calls. For half a century, people who are deaf, hard of hearing, speech-disabled and deaf-blind have been using TTYs to communicate by text over the phone. Obviously, our communications have changed dramatically over the past 50 years, and TTY technology is now outdated and not functionally equivalent to telephone services used by voice telephone users. That’s why the Commission is working to accelerate the use of real-time text as a replacement.

Real-time text allows text to be sent immediately as it is being created, enabling communications to flow back and forth in the same manner as voice communications. It also permits people with hearing and speech disabilities to use off-the-shelf devices.  Rather than pay for special equipment that may be hard to find and not as effective, they will, for the first time, be able to use the same phones as everyone else. The proposed Order would replace our rules requiring TTY support with rules defining the obligations of these wireless entities to support real-time text over IP-based services.

Also on tap, we will have new rules to improve the Emergency Alert System (EAS) as a tool for emergency preparedness. The EAS is our national public warning system, which broadcasters, cable and satellite companies use to keep us informed in times of crisis. Our new rules would strengthen EAS by promoting greater participation by partners on the state and local levels, improved testing, and enhanced EAS security. The item would also seek comment on how best to leverage technological advances to strengthen alerting.

I look forward to considering these items at next month’s meeting. Until then, safe travels, and happy Thanksgiving to all.


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