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ACA: Limit IP Closed Captioning Rules To Over-The-Top Video On Internet

The American Cable Association is urging the Federal Communications Commission to adopt new closed captioning rules that will create a balanced and light-touch implementation program for Internet Protocol-delivered programming.

"To get this right, the FCC must avoid imposing conflicting, unnecessary and burdensome obligations, or create a patchwork of requirements that will unfairly burden smaller cable operators with more limited access to capital and smaller subscriber bases over which to spread regulatory compliance costs,"  ACA President and CEO Matthew M. Polka said.

ACA's threshold recommendation is that the FCC apply the new IP captioning requirements only to online video programming providers and distributors that use IP to distribute programming over the Internet. The FCC, ACA added, should exclude from these additional captioning requirements cable operators that deliver video programming using IP, including over the Internet, to its cable customers within its cable network footprint.

ACA's positions were made know in comments filed with the FCC on Oct. 18 and reply comments on Nov. 1.

Under the Twenty-First Century Video Accessibility Act (CVAA), Congress expanded closed captioning mandates to include video programming once published or exhibited on television and delivered using IP. Consistent with current law and FCC rules in place since 1997, ACA members pass through all closed captioning data that is made available with programming and also ensure that set-top equipment is compatible so that consumers can enjoy captioned programming.  Current FCC closed captioning mandates apply to cable services regardless of the distribution technology.

In its reply CVAA comments, ACA said that limiting the sweep of the IP closed captioning obligations to video programming distributed over the Internet is the most natural and reasonable interpretation of the law; will avoid needless confusion over which captioning rules apply to cable operators using IP to distribute video programming to their subscription television customers; and will avoid imposing unnecessary burdens on smaller providers.

To further clarify to whom the new rules would apply, ACA recommended that the FCC also incorporate the distinction drawn in the Comcast-NBCU order between cable operators that use IP to deliver video programming to subscribers within their footprint and over-the-top video distributors that reach consumers via the Internet. ACA suggested that the FCC continue to rely on that distinction in the implementation of the CVAA.

ACA maintained that its recommendations will clarify the roles and obligations of various entities and lead to the successful implementation of the important public policy objective of ensuring that deaf and hard-of-hearing consumers will be able to enjoy the same captioned programming shown on television when it is distributed over the Internet. ACA's threshold position on Internet-distributed video programming was supported in separate comments filed last month by Verizon, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, and the Independent Telephone and Telecommunications Alliance.

Lastly, ACA again stressed that CVAA requirements should not apply to broadband Internet service providers. Such a mandate on ISPs, ACA said, would be unfair and impractical when the far better and more efficient approach is to rest responsibility for closed captioning compliance on the party or parties who can actually address captioning problems that may arise with online video programming.

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