ARCHIVED -  Telecom Decision CRTC 89-7

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Telecom Decision

Ottawa, 31 May 1989
Telecom Decision CRTC 89-7
In Attachment of Subscriber-Provided Terminal Equipment, Telecom Decision CRTC 82-14, 23 November 1982 (Decision 82-14), the Commission confirmed its earlier interim rulings permitting subscribers to attach their own telephones to the networks of the federally regulated carriers. The Commission also determined that only terminal equipment meeting the equipment and installation requirements of Certification Standard CS-03 (CS-03), published by the Department of Communications (DOC), could be attached to those networks. As a result, the carriers amended their tariffs to specify that equipment attached to their networks must be certified to CS-03.
CS-03 is a network protection standard developed and maintained by the Terminal Attachment Program Advisory Committee (TAPAC), a voluntary co-operative committee comprising carriers, manufacturers, suppliers, users and provincial governments. TAPAC is chaired by DOC, and the administration of CS-03, including certification and labelling of equipment, is the responsibility of DOC.
CS-03 does not at present require that telephone sets be hearing aid compatible. Hearing aid compatible telephones generate a magnetic field that a hearing aid equipped with a telecoil can detect and amplify. Some telephones, however, such as those with balanced armature receivers, do not generate sufficient magnetic field to operate with a telecoil hearing aid unless they are equipped with a special flux coil.
The Commission considered the matter of hearing aid compatibility for telephones in the proceeding leading to Decision 82-14. It decided, based on the record of that proceeding, not to require that all telephones be hearing aid compatible. The Commission stated that, while it was committed to ensuring that the hearing impaired had access to telephone service, it was not convinced by the evidence presented in that proceeding that a compatibility requirement was the most feasible way of achieving that goal. In this context, the Commission noted the cost of equipping newly-manufactured sets with flux coils, the cost of modifying existing telephones and the availability of alternatives such as inexpensive portable acoustic couplers. In Decision 82-14, the Commission encouraged TAPAC and other interested parties to explore means of improving the access of hearing impaired persons to telephone service, including modifications to the design of hearing aids themselves and modifications to the design of, and rates for, portable acoustic couplers.
In 1985, the Canadian Standards Association released a voluntary standard entitled Requirements for Handset Telephones Intended for Use by the Hard of Hearing, CAN3-T515-M85 (T515). Parts 1 through 3 of T515 cover the scope of the standard, definitions and general requirements. Part 4 deals with technical requirements for the magnetic output of handsets. Part 5 deals with handset amplification.
In August 1988, the Congress of the United States enacted the Hearing Aid Compatibility Act of 1988, requiring that, with certain exceptions, all corded telephones, manufactured in or imported into the U.S., for use in the U.S., be compatible with hearing aids by 16 August 1989.
On 10 June 1988, the Advocacy Resource Centre for the Handicapped (ARCH) filed a notice of intention to participate in the proceeding concerning the revenue requirements for 1988 and 1989 of British Columbia Telephone Company (B.C. Tel). ARCH stated that it intended to raise the issue of telephone set compatibility with hearing aids. ARCH represents the Canadian Hearing Society, the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association, the Canadian Association for the Deaf, the Canadian Coordinating Council on Deafness, the Canadian Hearing Impaired Youth Association and several hearing-impaired individuals.
The Commission was of the view that it would be appropriate to conduct a separate proceeding concerning ARCH's submissions, because the issues raised were relevant to the tariffs of all the federally regulated telephone companies. ARCH's submissions would also affect the interests of persons outside British Columbia and persons within the province who might not have indicated their intention of participating in the revenue requirement proceeding. The Commisson considered that a separate proceeding would facilitate the participation of all interested persons and would provide a better record on which to base a decision concerning hearing aid compatibility. The Commission initiated the proceeding in CRTC Telecom Public Notice 1988-36, 3 August 1988 (Public Notice 1988-36), styling ARCH as the applicant.
Subsequently, in a letter to parties dated 2 September 1988, the Commission amended the procedure outlined in Public Notice 1988-36 to allow the submission of supplementary material by ARCH.
In the supplementary material filed on 18 October 1988, ARCH requested that the Commission:
(1) amend CS-03 to incorporate T515; or
(2) in the alternative, incorporate T515 by reference into the tariffs of carriers subject to the Commission's jurisdiction.
ARCH's proposal would require that, in order to be attached to the networks of the federally regulated telephone companies, telephone sets be equipped with a flux coil or similar mechanism. ARCH estimated that, in Canada, approximately 50% of hearing aids are compatible with telephone sets equipped with flux coils.
ARCH submitted that the Commission's present acceptance in the tariffs of CS-03, absent T515, is not in accordance with section 340 of the Railway Act, which prohibits unjust discrimination or undue or unreasonable prejudice or disadvantage to any person; nor does it accord with section 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which provides for equality before and under the law and equal protection and benefit of the law for, amongst others, physically disabled individuals.
The Commission received comments from Association of Competitive Telecommunications Suppliers (ACTS); Bell Canada (Bell), B.C. Tel and Northwestel Inc. (Northwestel), (collectively, the telephone companies); the British Columbia Old Age Pensioners' Organization, Council of Senior Citizens' Organizations, Senior Citizens' Association, West End Seniors' Network, Local 1-217 IWA Seniors, Lower Mainland Alliance for Information and Referral Services, Social Planning and Research Council, and Federated Anti-Poverty Groups of B.C. (collectively, BCOAPO); the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC); the Consumers' Association of Canada (CAC); the Electrical and Electronic Manufacturing Association of Canada (EEMAC); the Government of British Columbia (BCG) and the Government of Ontario (Ontario).
The Commission also received letters of support for improved access for the hearing impaired from some 75 individuals and organizations.
On 16 March 1989, the Commission received a letter from the Chairman of TAPAC affirming the willingness of TAPAC members to modify CS-03 to include requirements for hearing aid compatibility, should the Commission consider it to be in the public interest. The Commission provided an opportunity for parties to comment on this letter and for ARCH to file a reply.
A. Positions of Parties
No party to this proceeding argued against ARCH's objective that, in order to provide hearing-impaired persons with access to telephone service comparable to that of other subscribers, telephone sets be hearing aid compatible. However, the parties supported various means by which to achieve this objective. The principal approaches identified were: (1) the enactment of legislation prohibiting the importation into Canada and the sale within Canada of telephones that are not hearing aid compatible; (2) the inclusion of portions of T515 in the tariffs of federally regulated telephone companies; and (3) the amendment of CS-03 to incorporate portions of T515.
The telephone companies, Ontario, BCG and CHRC all supported legislation as the most effective mechanism for ensuring hearing aid compatibility. ARCH, on the other hand, argued that, while legislation had been its first preference, it would not be realistic to expect legislation to be introduced or enacted in the foreseeable future. Therefore, legislative action was not the subject of its application, although it remained a long-term goal.
ARCH, ACTS and CAC supported the incorporation of T515 by reference into the tariffs of federally regulated telephone companies. The telephone companies, Ontario, BCG and CHRC argued that this approach is impractical because the telephone companies would be unable to enforce compliance with the revised tariffs. For example, B.C. Tel noted that there is no network testing mechanism that would allow them to detect non-compatible telephones. Some parties also noted that, while subscribers would only be allowed to attach telephones that comply with T515, they would have no way of determining whether their telephone sets did in fact comply with that standard.
ARCH, and most other parties, agreed that amending CS-03 to include parts 1 to 4 of T515 would be the preferable approach. It was noted that there is broad compliance with the existing CS-03 standard. Bell noted that, as a consequence of amending CS-03, telephones could not bear a DOC certification label unless they were hearing aid compatible. According to Bell, this requirement would likely ensure that most equipment sold was compatible.
Bell, B.C. Tel and EEMAC expressed the opinion that TAPAC is the most appropriate body to amend CS-03. ARCH, however, stated that it favoured the amendment of CS-03 by the Commission, rather than by TAPAC. Both ARCH and CAC expressed concern that TAPAC might not be able to reach a consensus on revisions to CS-03. ARCH submitted that the Commission has the power to amend CS-03 or, in the alternative, simply to mandate T515 by revising the telephone companies' tariffs. Notwithstanding its earlier position, in its submission on TAPAC's letter of 16 March 1989, ARCH stated that it is pleased to note TAPAC's willingness to include requirements for hearing aid compatibility in CS-03.
B. Conclusions
In order to provide hearing-impaired individuals with access comparable to that of other subscribers, the Commission concludes that, subject to the considerations discussed below, it is in the public interest that telephone sets attached to the networks of the federally regulated telephone companies be hearing aid compatible.
The Commission considers legislation the most effective means of achieving this objective. However, the Commission notes that only Parliament and the provincial legislatures can enact statutes, and agrees with ARCH that it would not be realistic to expect legislation to be enacted in the near future. Accordingly, the Commission has concluded that it is necessary at this time to adopt an interim solution, pending the enactment of legislation, in order to increase the number of hearing aid compatible telephones connected to the networks of the telephone companies under its jurisdiction.
While the Commission is empowered to incorporate T515 by reference into the tariffs of the federally regulated telephone companies, there are three major drawbacks to this approach. First, such tariffs would be difficult to enforce. As noted by B.C. Tel, there is no network testing equipment capable of detecting non-complying telephones attached to the network. In the absence of an effective enforcement mechanism, there would be little incentive or pressure on telephone manufacturers, importers or retailers to comply with T515. Second, absent a certification and labelling requirement indicating that a telephone is hearing aid compatible, it would be difficult for subscribers who wish to purchase their own telephone sets to determine whether the sets are hearing aid compatible. Finally, the development and administration by the Commission of an additional certification and labelling requirement would take a considerable amount of time and resources and would represent a wasteful duplication of the service provided by DOC with respect to CS-03. In light of these difficulties, the Commission concludes that incorporating T515 into the tariffs of the federally regulated telephone companies would not be an effective means of achieving hearing aid compatibility.
While the tariffs of the federally regulated telephone companies do not set out verbatim the terms of CS-03, they do specify that only telephones labelled and certified by DOC may be attached to their networks. This system of CS-03 certification and labelling has been in place since the early 1980s and has proven workable in terms of industry adherence and telephone company enforceability.
The Commission notes that most parties to the proceeding, including ARCH, would prefer to have CS-03 amended to include requirements for hearing aid compatibility. As a result of amending CS-03 in this manner, telephones would have to meet hearing aid compatibility requirements, as well as existing network protection requirements, in order to be certified and labelled as complying with CS-03.
The Commission concludes that amending CS-03 to incorporate T515 is the only feasible method presently available to increase the number of hearing aid compatible telephones in use within its jurisdiction. However, CS-03 is not a Commission document. It cannot be directly amended by the Commission, as originally suggested by ARCH. Therefore, the Commission hereby requests TAPAC to revise CS-03 to incorporate T515 having regard for the need for harmonization with similar U.S. requirements. The Commission agrees with ARCH and other parties that only parts 1 to 4 of T515 should be incorporated into CS-03.
The Commission notes TAPAC's statement in its letter of 16 March 1989 that, should the Commission find it in the public interest that CS-03 be amended to provide for hearing aid compatibility with telephone sets, its members are willing to do so. The Commission will forward a copy of this decision to the Chairman of TAPAC to advise him of its findings. As the Commission has an observer on TAPAC, the Commission will be able to monitor the committee's progress.
The legislation enacted in the U.S. provides exemptions for secure telephones and mobile radio telephones, including cellular telephones, and also provides for the possibility of future exemptions for equipment using new technologies. The legislation also specifies a delayed compliance date for cordless telephones.
Both ARCH and the telephone companies indicated that they support an exemption from hearing aid compatibility requirements for secure telephones. No party to the proceeding suggested that secure telephones not be exempted. The Commission agrees that secure telephones should be exempted from CS-03 compatibility requirements. Accordingly, in the Commission's view, TAPAC should provide for such an exemption.
The telephone companies generally favoured an approach that would permit exemptions for new technologies on a case-by-case basis. ARCH submitted that any person, group or company could, at some time in the future, make application to the Commission to vary the standard on the basis of a technological advance. In the Commission's view, no specific provisions to allow for possible future exemptions of new technologies are necessary. The Commission has the authority, at any time, to amend the tariffs that reference CS-03 in order to add or delete exemptions, as appropriate.
ARCH saw no reason to exempt cordless sets. ARCH argued that most manufacturers in the United States are already producing a compatible cordless telephone. Bell noted that it is not aware of any technical difficulty associated with making cordless telephones hearing aid compatible. B.C. Tel and Northwestel suggested that it would be appropriate to exempt cordless telephones for a limited time. B.C. Tel assumed that the temporary exemption for cordless telephones under American legislation is intended to allow manufacturers time to redesign their products.
The Commission considers that the record of this proceeding does not provide it with sufficient information as to the current ability of manufacturers to ensure that all new cordless telephones are hearing aid compatible. However, TAPAC is capable of considering the technical difficulties that may arise if cordless-type telephones are not provided a temporary exemption. The Commission is of the view that such an exemption should not be provided unless TAPAC's enquiries lead it to conclude that technical difficulties are such that an exemption is warranted.
Northwestel supported an exemption for mobile telephones, while ARCH and BCOAPO were opposed to any such exemptions. The Commission notes that network protection standards have not been required for mobile telephones, including cellular telephones. As a result, mobile telephones are not subject to CS-03. Moreover, no party presented reasons for including mobile telephones under CS-03. The Commission considers that no compelling case has been made for requiring that mobile telephones be hearing aid compatible at this time.
No party to the proceeding requested that telephones manufactured prior to the establishment of requirements for compatibility be required to comply. The Commission agrees that the compatibility requirements should be imposed on a prospective basis only. Accordingly, the Commission concludes that TAPAC's modifications to CS-03 should be such that telephone sets manufactured after the appropriate date comply with the new standard.
In the U.S., corded telephones, other than secure telephones, imported or manufactured after mid-August 1989 for use in the U.S. must be hearing aid compatible. The legislation provides an additional two years (until August 1991) for cordless telephones to comply.
ARCH was particularly concerned that the deadline for compliance in Canada be the same as the August 1989 deadline imposed in the U.S. ARCH wishes to avoid the possibility of the dumping in Canada of non-complying equipment. ARCH noted that Decision 82-14 required that single-line terminal equipment be certified to CS-03 within six months.
B.C. Tel submitted that the effective date should be determined through negotiation between the appropriate governmental authorities and the manufacturing industry.
The Commission agrees with ARCH that the U.S. compliance date gives rise to concerns that non-hearing aid compatible telephone equipment may be dumped in Canada to the detriment of hearing impaired individuals. In light of this concern, TAPAC is encouraged to proceed as expeditiously as possible, taking into account the timing of the U.S. legislation.
Fernand Bélisle
Secretary General

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