AT&T says T-Mobile and Sprint Wi-Fi calling violates disability rules

AT&T yesterday accused T-Mobile and Sprint of violating federal rules that require wireless networks to be compatible with technology for people with hearing and speech disabilities.

AT&T says T-Mobile and Sprint began offering Wi-Fi calling on smartphones without seeking a waiver from the Federal Communications Commission’s TTY (teletypewriter) rules. TTY devices for deaf and speech-impaired people can be used in conjunction with cell phones, and the FCC requires wireless networks to be able to transmit 911 calls made using TTY devices.

Although TTY devices do not operate reliably over Wi-Fi, T-Mobile and Sprint “have been offering Wi-Fi calling services for a significant period of time, well over a year on Android devices and for months on iOS devices,” AT&T wrote in a letter yesterday to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. “Neither of those carriers has approached the FCC to request a waiver of the TTY rules” and are thus “offering those services in apparent violation of the Commission’s rules.”

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