Consumer Electronics Association president Gary Shapiro plans to tell the House Communications Subcommittee that its effort to apply legacy communications regulations on disability access to broadband is, as drafted, the wrong approach.
Shapiro will say the bill is overbroad, will chill innovation and ignores products already on the market that serve the needs of the disability community.
That is according to a copy of his written testimony for a June 10 hearing on HR 3101, The 21st Century
Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2009. "The approach set forth in H.R. 3101, requiring all service and devices to be accessible with the FCC developing and mandating technical standards for such accessible features would not result in more products being accessible or more innovative designs," says Shapiro. "Rather, it would result in overly burdensome compliance costs, less variety of products and would hinder United States competitiveness in the global market."
Rather than mandating technical standards for closed captioning and video description, he says, that job should be left to an advisory committee of stakeholders, he said. Shapiro pointed to the ad hoc working group of Society of Motion Picture and Television (SMPTE), which is working on standards for online captioning, saying it should have those initial standards hammered out this year. National Cable & Telecommunications executive vice president James Assey will also refer to the group in his comments calling on Congress to give the industry more time and flexibility to come up with solutions.
The bill attempts to ensure that communications devices have function keys for the access features and that, for
example, emergency warnings are still viewable even on small screens. Shapiro says consumer electronics manufacturers share the "laudatory goals" of access to the "miracles of modern communication," but that the bill needs adjustment to hit that target.
"We are...edging up against the bounds of physics and engineering, and the reality that the increasingly common
handheld devices can only have screens so large or so many special function keys or buttons. We strongly believe it is not an appropriate government role to mandate any of these functions, keys, buttons or designs," according to Shapiro.
One of the changes CEA would make to the bill is ensuring that technical standards be left to industry bodies, not
government agencies or Congress. He also calls "intrusive" the bill's reporting obligations and the priority it appears to give accessibility complaints at the FCC "over all other complaints, regardless of merit."
Also on the list of nonstarters for CEA are the size of fines for noncompliance and the lack of a third-party liability limitations. Rather than mandating technical standards for closed captioning and video description, that job should be left to an advisory committee of stakeholders, he said.
Shapiro also criticized the bill in an op-ed in The Washington Times, pointing out, as he did in his testimony, that the iPhone might never have made it to market had it been subject to the kind of accessibility mandates--raised buttons, for example--that are in the bill.