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ACA Seeks Balanced FCC Implementation Of CVAA's Accessibility Mandates

The American Cable Association urged the Federal Communications Commission to take a balanced approach on implementation of key accessibility mandates concerning user guides in the Twenty First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (CVAA), arguing that such flexibility would allow small cable operators to provide audio services to the blind and visually impaired community in the most cost-efficient manner.

ACA set forth its views on July 15 in response to the FCC's Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that explored various proposals for implementing Sections 204 and 205 of the CVAA.

These sections generally require the FCC to adopt rules that require digital apparatus and navigation device user interfaces used to view video programming to be accessible to and usable by individuals who are blind or visually impaired, with the goal of enabling disabled persons to use their digital video devices more easily and thereby gain better access to video programming, an aim ACA fully embraces.

"ACA fully supports the goals of Sections 204 and 205 of the CVAA to ensure that blind and visually impaired individuals have digital apparatus and navigation devices available to enable them to access and use multichannel video programming. However, ACA believes that providing

Multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs) with adequate time and flexibility in terms of compliance with Section 205 requirements is critical to ensuring that the user guide rules can be implemented in an effective manner without placing undue burdens on smaller MVPDs," ACA President and CEO Matthew M. Polka said.

In its comments, ACA recommended that permitting smaller MVPDs maximum flexibility to choose cost-effective methods to achieve accessibility in reasonable and achievable timeframes is the best way for the FCC to achieve its goals.

Specifically, ACA expressed the view that navigation devices used by MVPD subscribers are subject only to Section 205, which provides MVPDs with maximum flexibility to determine how to provide accessible user guide solutions to their requesting blind and visually impaired customers; good cause exists for the FCC to exempt small cable systems from the rules; and non-exempt smaller and mid-sized MVPDs should be provided time in addition to that provided the largest operators to come into compliance.

Relying on recent precedent, ACA recommended that the FCC defer a decision on the Section 205 compliance phase-in period for smaller and mid-sized MVPDs, pending developments that will allow it to make a more informed decision on whether accessible program guides and text menus are achievable for non-exempt smaller and mid-sized cable systems (i.e., those serving more than 20,000 subscribers) and what a reasonable phase-in period would be at that time.

Until it is more clear how the marketplace will respond, entities that do not drive equipment and software markets should be given as much time as possible to come into compliance. To this end, the FCC could commit to reviewing marketplace developments after the three-year phase-in period for larger MVPDs to determine whether audible accessibility for program guides and menus is achievable for smaller and mid-sized MVPDs.

"Because smaller and mid-sized MVPDs do not drive the technology development necessary to develop accessibility technology, they should be afforded as much time as possible to implement the solutions that may potentially become available to them in the marketplace," Polka said.

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