FCC Poised to Approve Pre-Sales, Marketing of Tech Devices

Amazon Fire TV remote
(Image credit: Amazon)

The FCC will vote next month on a proposal to speed up FCC authorization of new tech.

Acting FCC chair Jessica Rosenworcel said Wednesday (May 26) that the FCC will vote at its June 17 open meeting on an item that allows "conditional" sales and feature marketing--but not delivery--of technology to consumers before it has gotten FCC equipment authorization. It would also permit limited importation of technology, including 5G technology, in preparation for sale.

"The FCC’s equipment authorization program helps to make sure that the latest smartphones, laptops, and other gadgets work as intended and don’t create harmful interference," said Rosenworcel, but said that to make sure the FCC keeps pace with innovation, the rules will allow manufacturers "to gauge consumer interest for new products and take advantage of new mechanisms for marketing devices, like crowdfunding, while still ensuring that the important goals of the equipment authorization system and security are not undermined."

The FCC has already voted unanimously to propose the changes, and the fact that Rosenworcel has teed up a vote in a 2-2 politically tied commission suggests the vote on the final order will be the same.

Big Tech bigwigs Amazon and Google have been pushing the early authorization of devices, which the Consumer Technology Association petitioned the FCC to adopt.

Google and Amazon cited the pandemic as providing a couple of reasons for speeding the rule change. 

One is that consumer access to innovative products, whether for school, telehealth, remote work, news, entertainment or basic interaction is more important than ever given the isolation of COVID-19. Then there is the argument that new tech will be a catalyst to post-COVID economic recovery. It also points out that pre-ordering online has become commonplace, so consumers would be comfortable with the process.

Not surprisingly, CTA was pleased with the upcoming vote.

“We are thrilled the FCC is voting on CTA’s request to revise its rules to prioritize marketing and importing essential consumer technologies," said CTA president Gary Shapiro. “The old rules from the 1970s are putting Americans at a global disadvantage in how soon they can get the newest devices they want. The old rules that restrict importing and selling tech devices directly to consumers no longer make sense. The importance of and demand for 5G and other next-generation devices became even clearer during the pandemic as Americans shifted to working, learning and receiving medical care online.  

“CTA members are now racing to meet the consumer demand for connected devices. We will see more of these innovative technologies at CES 2022 in Las Vegas the first week in January. If the old rules are revised, companies can get these essential products into consumers hands faster and speed up 5G deployment.”

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.