Real-Time Text: The FCC Makes It Official

By Kathi Mestayer

This will be the standard symbol for real-time text, from the RTT website.

This will be the standard symbol for real-time text, from the RTT website.

Have you ever been on a phone call, slowly spelling out the word you just used? And finding out how very similar fifteen and fifty sound? Or how tough it is to communicate a word such as “impingement,” even if you do spell it?

The good news is that the FCC has now enacted the long-awaited transition to providing real-time text (RTT) by cellphone providers. "Real-time text allows characters to be sent as they are created without hitting ‘send,’” according to the Dec. 15, 2016, FCC press release. “This allows text to be sent at the same time as voice communications, permitting a more conversation-friendly service.”

People with hearing loss will now be able to clarify (or receive clarification) of spoken content by quickly texting the word(s) to the other party, without interrupting the ongoing conversation (or hitting “send”).

This action is discussed briefly in Hearing Health’s Winter 2017 issue here (before the official adoption of the rules by FCC had been completed).  

The new FCC rules require large phone carriers to make RTT available by the end of this year. The first phase would require users to download an app, but RTT would eventually be built into phones.  

According to Christian Vogler, the director of Gallaudet University’s Technology Access Program, AT&T worked closely with Gallaudet at various stages of planning for RTT. In one case the testing made it possible to show “how well it held up under network conditions that can be too poor even for voice calls.”

“Too poor for voice calls”—who hasn’t been there? Very soon we’ll have another option. For more information, see the RTT website.

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