Jul 122010

The National Broadband Plan and You, Part 2

By Cheryl Heppner, 7/11/10

More from the presentation by Karen Peltz Strauss —

More on the FCC’s Activities

– There will be a website link to the Disability Rights Office, information about workshops, access to fact sheets, an easy link to the form to file closed captioning complaints, and access to the new list of video program distributors to report a problem when watching TV captions. Overall the FCC is trying to dramatically expand and increase its communication with consumers.

– New rulemakings will be coming in the next few months to bring rules up to date:

– A Notice of Inquiry on real time text will be released in the third quarter of 2010. This will ask for feedback on what existing technology is already available and a reliable, interoperable standard.  Real time text is text refers to the ability to type to someone else and have every space and letter you type appear on the screen of the person you are connected to, as soon as you type it.  AOL has already been offering real time text for IM.

– An Notice of Inquiry on internet video programming and equipment will be released in the fourth quarter.

Updating Regulations

– Expansion of Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act is crucial. There is hope that H.R. 3101 will pass, as this would make it easier for the FCC by giving them explicit authority to take action on the items contained in the legislation.

– In addition, the FCC plans to address the Section 508 regulations.  When the regulations were passed, the Department of Justice was to report each year on the progress for video communication.  The last report was done in 2000.  An important announcement on Section 508 will be made soon.

– With Section 255, the FCC has not followed through on captioning complaints as it should have.  They are now stepping up and bringing these complaints to their Enforcement Bureau.  State and local governments who are broadcasting an event or hearing on the Internet must provide captioning just as they would at a physical location, because the Internet becomes their place of public accommodation.

– All laws need to be brought into the 21st century.  Technology is advancing at unprecedented speed.  The FCC hopes to foster collaboration and problem solving processes among stakeholders and promote the availability of innovative hardware and software.

– The FCC will finally be addressing the closed caption quality petition filed by consumer organizations in 2006. (NVRC played an very active role in this petition, and many of the examples of captioning problems were provided by consumers who reported them to NVRC.

– Four additional public notices will be released and one announcement will be made.

ADA 20th Anniversary Event – July 19

On Monday July 19, 2010 the FCC will have a celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.  This will be a major event.  In the morning there will be a closed event at the White House, but an afternoon technology fair to view innovative technology, being held at the U.S. Department of Commerce in Washington, DC, will be open to the public. During the celebration, a video will be unveiled and there will be announcements on a number of proceedings.  Karen gave us three hints about the announcements: something on hearing aid compatibility, something on 3D television, and something on Section 504.

The ADA anniversary event will not be available live on the Internet, but it will be taped and then captioned and made available on the Web.

Closed Captioning

– The recent changes in the closed captioning complaint procedures now allow consumers to bring their closed captioning complaints directly to the FCC. There are four people who handle these complaints. This new procedure has sent the message to the industry that they are being watched.

– The FCC required realtime closed captioning for local news in its closed captioning regulations  only in the Top 25 markets.  The rationale for this decision is that there are 200 areas across the country that are “designated market areas” for broadcasters. The Top 25 of those areas reach a population area so huge that it covers 50% of the U.S. public. The FCC will be looking at different options for expanding the realtime closed captioning requirement to more areas.  One idea might be to increase the requirement to cover the Top 75 markets, and another would be to set a timeline to phase in all the remaining markets.

– Later this year the FCC will do an overall re-examination of the hearing aid compatibiity rules.

Questions About Closed Captioning

Q: I have video on demand but it is not captioned, and my provider, Comcast, says there is nothing they can do about this.

Karen: Comcast should not be telling consumers this.  Video on Demand has been covered by the captioning regulations since 2006, which requires captioning of all nonexempt English language programs.

Q: I experienced a 3-second delay in captions and was told the engineering standards were set some time ago and there was nothing that could be done. Where do I direct my complaint?

Karen: If there is a three-second delay on all shows, file a complaint with the cable or satellite provider.

– Thanks to NVRC, Fairfax