February 18, 2019

February 18, 2019

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FCC Considers a Waiver Request for Medical Imaging System

On February 9, 2018, the FCC released a Public Notice seeking comment on a request by Sensible Medical Innovations Ltd. (Sensible) for a waiver of certain FCC rules to permit its marketing and operation of a medical imaging and diagnostic device that provides accurate lung-fluid measurements in a non-invasive way for congestive heart failure patients. 

 The device works by attaching two sensors to the body, one on the chest and one on the back, positioned so that the patient’s lung is between the two sensors.  Each sensor consists of an antenna for transmitting and receiving electromagnetic waves that are transferred through the pulmonary tissue.  The dielectric properties of the lung alter the transmitted electromagnetic waves, and these changes are measured by the system and used to calculate fluid concentration.

 Because the device operates over a certain frequency range, it must comply with certain FCC regulations.  Although Sensible claims that the device generally complies with most applicable FCC regulations governing this frequency range, it acknowledges that it does not comply with two:  (1) a requirement that emissions above 960 MHz be made with root square mean average detector over 1 MHz resolution bandwidth, with an average time of one millisecond or less; and (2) a requirement that ultra wide-band imaging devices coordinate the their deployment with the NTIA, which is part of the Department of Commerce.  Sensible is seeking a waiver of the first rule because its system could comply with the average emission limit only if the averaging time interval were increased to 50 milliseconds, and it is seeking a waiver of the second rule on the theory that coordination with NTIA is impractical for a body-worn device that will operate intermittently indoors.

 The FCC is authorized to waive its rules for good cause shown, but in the absence of an emergency it routinely seeks public comment on waiver requests before acting.  Still, it would not be unusual for the FCC to grant Sensible’s waiver requests if others do not object and if the agency does not believe that doing so would cause harm or interference to other devices or services that rely on spectrum.

 This development should be of interest to medical device companies, as they should be aware of how the FCC is approaching such matters.  Covington’s Communications & Media Practice Group has significant experience advising a range of companies on these and similar FCC issues.

© 2019 Covington & Burling LLP


About this Author

Yaron Dori, Communications and media attorney, Covington


Yaron Dori has 20 years of experience in telecommunications, privacy, and consumer protection law advising telecom, technology, and media companies on their most pressing business challenges.

In doing so, Mr. Dori focuses on strategic planning, policy development, transactions, investigations and enforcement, and overall regulatory compliance.

Mr. Dori represents clients before federal and state regulatory agencies—including the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) —and the U.S. Congress...

Matt DelNero, Covington Burling, Telecommunications attorney

Matt DelNero represents companies in the telecommunications, technology and media sectors—advising them in policy development, regulatory compliance, and commercial transactions, among other settings. Mr. DelNero rejoined the firm in January 2017 after serving as Chief of the Wireline Competition Bureau at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

As an FCC Bureau Chief, Mr. DelNero led a team of over 170 attorneys, economists, and other professionals in developing and executing policies to promote the deployment and adoption of broadband and other communications services throughout the United States. The FCC tackled major policy questions under his leadership—including landmark transactions between cable, broadband, and other telecommunications providers; net neutrality; privacy and data security; and enterprise broadband services. He also oversaw policymaking for the $8+ billion Universal Service Fund and its ongoing reforms to bridge the digital divide.