ACA, NCTA Seek Flexibility in CVAA Implementation

Cable Groups Tell FCC it Should Exempt, Or Help Smaller MSOs with Device Accessibility Requirements

The American Cable Association and the National Cable and Telecommunications Association are on the same page relative to the FCC giving smaller operators some flexibility when it comes to requiring digital navigation devices to be usable by the blind or visually impaired.

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 operators.

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 devices.

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 others."

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."