ACA, NCTA Seek Flexibility in CVAA Implementation

Tell FCC it should exempt or otherwise help smaller operators with device accessibility requirements
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The American Cable Association and
the National Cable and Telecommunications Association are on the same page in
regards to the FCC giving smaller operators some flexibility when it comes to
requiring digital navigation devices to be usable by the blind or visually

That came in comments on FCC
implementation of the Twenty First Century Communications and Video
Accessibility Act (CVAA) and its May Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on how the
accessibility mandate should be applied to on-screen navigation devices.

ACA is not trying to get out of
the requirement, but instead to provide those services "in the most
cost-efficient manner," the group says. ACA represents small and mid-sized

ACA wants the FCC to allow systems
with 20,000 or fewer subs -- some ACA members have only a few hundred -- the
flexibility in cost and time frames to make the mandates achievable and
reasonable. It argues that a good case could be made for exempting those from
the mandates, and another case could be made for not mandating a phase-in
period for those smaller and midsized systems with more than 20,000 subs until
it determines whether accessible program guides and menus are achievable for
those, and what a reasonable phase-in period would be if they are achievable.

"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,"
ACA said. "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."

NCTA agreed that smaller operators
need help. "[T]he Commission should exercise its authority under the
legislation to exempt the smallest systems from the requirements of Section
205, and to give additional time to small operators to come into compliance and
to benefit from technological developments in this area," the trade group
said in its comments.

Section 205 of CVAA "requires
that MVPDs "(1) make available accessible on-screen text menus and guides
to customers who are blind or visually impaired; and (2) provide access to
closed captioning capability on certain navigation devices," NCTA pointed
out. But it also pointed to CVAA's recognition that the requirement was a
technological challenge and that MVPDs needed flexibility.

NCTA argues that that includes not
mandating the requirement on cable operator-developed navigation aps like
Cablevision's iPad app, not making operators responsible for compliance of
non-MVPD supplied devices over which they have no control, and not requiring
MVPDs to make program guide info available to manufacturers for third-party

NCTA points out that cable
operators "often purchase that guide data from third parties and create
unique user interfaces for their customers," and says nothing in the CVAA
or the Communications Act "confers authority on the Commission to force
cable operators or programmers to provide channel and program information to

NCTA also says the law can't be used to mandate
additional guide information. "Thus, contrary to the urgings of certain
local governments [Montgomery County,
Md., and its PEG channels for example
], the Commission cannot use Section
205 or any other provision to require a cable operator to add information to
its on-screen text menu and guide that is not already there."