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Friday, February 15, 2013

Major FCC rule update, FCC to stop certifying products all together

Logo of the United States Federal Communicatio...

Logo of the United States Federal Communications Commission, used on their website and some publications since the early 2000s. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

FCC proposes changes to product certification rules to leave certification activities exclusively to the Telecommunication Certification Bodies (TCB). FCC will require that all testing be at an accredited, approved lab. The new rules will also specify new standards for testing and recognition of TCBs and labs.

To sum up the proposed changes;

  1. FCC will stop certifying products and rely solely on TCBs (including for items on exclusion list)
  2. FCC to codify “permit-but-ask” procedures into new “pre-approval” procedure.
  3. Rules will clarify TCB post-market surveillance requirements
  4. Rules will specify steps that can be taken if TCB performance was found deficient.
  5. Rules will reference latest ISO/IEC standards for accreditation and 2009 version of ANSI
  6. Test labs will require accreditation to perform testing for certification.
  7. A one year transition from publication date is proposed for certain aspects of the new rules

The FCC will stop issuing grants directly; rather they will rely on TCBs to perform all certifications. This will enable the FCC to focus on “enforcement” activities. The FCC will be better able to perform post-market surveillance and auditing random samples. TCBs will also be granted authority to dismiss equipment authorization applications under the same circumstances that the Commission currently dismisses and application. TCBs will not be able to deny an application. The current 30 day period that a TCB may rescind a grant remains however the term “rescind” will be changed to “set aside”.

The FCC intends to eliminate the TCB exclusion list (items that a TCB cannot approve) and codify the “permit-but-ask” procedures. The FCC will call the new system “pre-approval guidance” procedures. The new procedures will identify the types of devices or testing that would require a TCB to consult with the Commission prior to approval. The FCC intends to integrate the pre-approval guidance procedure with the current Equipment Authorization System (EAS). The new pre-approval procedure will retain the FCCs option to do a pre-grant sample test, similar to how product that requires Dynamic Frequency Selection (DFS) are sampled by the FCC prior to issuance of a grant.

The proposal will require that applicants send a written signed request for equipment authorization to a TCB. The proposal also requires that the applicant provide the TCB with all information required by the 731 application in writing (or digital form), including all exhibits required to process the application.

Previously the rules did not require a TCB to submit a complete copy of the certification application prior to grant; the rules will be amended to incorporate the requirement that the TCB provide the Commission with a complete copy of the application, including all required exhibits, prior to issuance of a grant or a dismissal of the application. The key here is that this will provide notice to the Commission and other TCBs concerning which applications have been dismissed.

FCC intends to clarify the rules regarding the post-market surveillance requirements of TCBs by making reference to the Knowledge database (KDB) procedure and to make clear the authority TCBs have when requesting samples from grantees. The FCC may direct a grantee to provide a sample for testing to the approving TCB if questions of compliance should arise.

FCC is seeking comment on the surveillance, specifically how to ensure that duplicates are not selected by the FCC and TCB for sampling? Should TCBs cross check one another, and if so, who bears the costs? Should grantees provide a voucher to enable the FCC to obtain a retail sample from the market?

Currently the rules provide for the revocation of TCB status, but no less corrective measures are specified. FCC proposes to modify rules to allow for lesser forms of corrective actions with warnings, communication and monitoring, also perhaps temporarily requiring that all applications from a deficient TCB go through the pre-approval procedure as sort of “probation” until confidence is regained in the TCBs abilities.

FCC proposes to modify rules to replace accreditation requirements of Guide 58 and Guide 61 with the new consolidated ISO/IEC 17011 and to replace reference to Guide 65 with ISO/IEC 17065. Consistent with 17065 the term “sub-contractor” will be replaced with “external resources”. The proposal notes that these changes will not have any significant impact because the revised guides are substantially similar to the guides currently specified in the rules.

Currently, equipment to be certificated must be tested at a lab that meets one of two criteria, the lab must have filed a description of the facilities with the Commission, or the lab has been accredited under ISO/IEC 17025 and recognized by the Commission. The FCC recognizes that accreditation is a more thorough and involved process than filing a description. The FCC notes that accreditation of a lab outside the United States is acceptable only of the lab is located in a country that has an MRA with the United States, or is accredited by an organization that is recognized by the Commission.

This is a big one, the FCC proposes to end the listing program for labs and require that all test labs performing tests for DoC or Certification be accredited, this would mean that only “Verification” testing could be performed at a non-accredited facility. The lab will still be required to compile the listing description, but only show it to the FCC or accreditation body upon request. The FCC will maintain a list of acceptable test labs, most likely similar to how it does now at https://apps.fcc.gov/oetcf/eas/reports/TestFirmSearch.cfm . It is worth noting that tests performed in countries without an MRA may no longer be acceptable for certification.

FCC proposes to require, rather than allow as an alternative, a test lab testing above 1GHz to meet the CISPR 16 validation criteria. Validation is to be confirmed no less than once every three years.

The FCC proposes acceptance of the measurement standards ANSI C63.4-2009 for unintentional radiators and C63.10-2009 for intentional radiators with the continued exception of the use of rod antenna below 30MHz, an artificial hand for holding hand held devices, and absorber clamp for radio noise power measurements as well as no relaxation of limits for transient emissions. The FCC is not proposing to incorporate CISPR 22 into the rules for measuring subject to part 15 as requested by the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI).

FCC proposes that test setup photos be included for each of the required types of tests applicable to the device for which certification is requested. The FCC also proposes that any photographs be “focused originals” without glare or dark spots, and must clearly show the test configuration used.

As for a transition period, the FCC notes that two of the changes may require some time for laboratories to meet. These are; 1) laboratories must be accredited, and 2) above 1GHz testing site validation in accordance with C63.4-2009. The FCC proposes that they will stop accepting applications for listing labs under section 2.948 as of the effective date of the final rules. The FCC proposes that any unaccredited labs that are already listed on the effective date of the rules can continue to perform testing until one year after publication, after that they must be accredited. All labs accredited or not, must comply with the site validation requirements of C63.4-2009 no later than one year after publication. Any new labs must comply with both accreditation and site validation requirements as of the date of publication of the new rules.

A link to the NPRM is provided below, while this article attempts to digest most of the document, you are encouraged to read the NPRM and follow the procedures should you wish to participate and to provide feedback to the FCC.

REF:

February 12, 2013 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM)

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