Equipment Authorization Rules Redux


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On Feb. 15, the FCC released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to adopt new rules for its equipment authorization procedures. The proposed changes are expected to encourage greater efficiency in approving new radio frequency (RF) equipment, while maintaining the existing protections from these devices causing harmful interference.

By way of background, the Commission currently has three different approval procedures for new and modified equipment, depending on the potential for harm. The most basic procedure, verification, involves only the manufacturer. Under this authorization framework, the manufacturer reviews the technical standards established by the FCC, makes the necessary measurements and takes other steps to confirm that the equipment complies with the FCC's rules. Manufacturers are required to maintain documentation regarding their equipment testing, and may be required to supply a sample unit or test data to the FCC upon request. The second procedure, declaration of conformity, requires equipment to be tested by an accredited testing laboratory. These accredited laboratories test the equipment to ensure that it complies with the appropriate technical standards. Finally, the third procedure, certification, is the most stringent of the authorization processes, and requires that equipment be sent to the FCC or a designated telecommunications certification body to be tested and approved. A telecommunications certification body (TCB) is a laboratory approved by the FCC, which is authorized to process and approve equipment under specified certification procedures.

The proposed rules take aim at revising the certification procedure, and adjusting the relationship between the TCBs and the FCC. First, the FCC proposes to cease reviewing equipment, and instead have TCBs conduct all routine certification applications. The Commission believes that this would eliminate delay, and free its limited resources to spend more time confirming that its rules are being applied correctly. The Commission also proposes to eliminate the Exclusion List that required the FCC (rather than a TCB) approval of certain equipment, such as TV band white space devices and split modular transmitters. Instead, the Commission proposes to create a pre-approval guidance procedure" whereby the TCB would first review the device, and then forward its recommendation to the FCC. The FCC would then either approve the device, request additional information from the TCB, or deny the application.

The Commission also proposes to modify the TCB oversight process. Under its current rules, the FCC can only terminate the TCB's authority to review applications, and the FCC believes that intermediary steps, such as heightened reporting requirements may be a more useful in ensuring compliance. Under the proposal, the FCC would first give the TCB notice that the FCC has concerns about the TCB's approval process, and provide a period of time for the TCB to modify its approval policies and bring the TCB back into compliance. The FCC would monitor all grants of authorizations by the TCB, and set aside such grants if necessary. Moreover, the FCC proposes to require that all TCBs become accredited under the ISO/IEC 17025 standards that are applicable currently to just those sites that are eligible to issue a declaration of conformity. The FCC believes that the costs associated for TCBs to become accredited will likely be offset by the certainty that equipment is being adequately tested.

Finally, the FCC proposes to tweak its Part 15 rules relating to intentional and unintentional radiators. Currently, Part 15 specifies a standard published by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) adopted in 2003. In light of the technological advances to devices, there have been updates to the ANSI standards. Therefore, the FCC proposes to incorporate ANSI C63.10-2009 into its rules for determining compliance with intentional radiators, and ANSI C63.4.2009 for unintentional radiators.

Comments on the FCC's proposals will be due 45 days after the NPRM is published in the Federal Register.


FCC Dateline

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March 16: Stations in Kansas, Nebraska, and Oklahoma continue running License Renewal Post-Filing Announcements on March 16, April 1 and 16. Stations in Texas continue running License Renewal Pre-Filing Announcements.

April 1: Stations in Texas file License Renewal Application and EEO Program Report, and Noncommercial radio stations file Ownership Report (323-E). Commence running License Renewal Post-Filing Announcements, continuing on April 16, May 1 and 16.

April 10: Stations place Issues/Programs Lists for 1Q2013 into public inspection file.


Petro is of counsel at Drinker Biddle & Reath, LLP. Email: lee.petro@dbr.com.




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