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CONSUMER ELECTRONICS ASSOCIATION James Hedlund Vice

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CONSUMER ELECTRONICS ASSOCIATION James Hedlund Vice Powered By Docstoc
					                                      Before the
                           Federal Communications Commission
                                 Washington, DC 20554


In the Matter of                                )
                                                )
International Comparison and Consumer           )   GN Docket No. 09-47
Survey Requirements in the Broadband Data       )
Improvement Act                                 )
                                                )
A National Broadband Plan for Our Future        )   GN Docket No. 09-51
                                                )
Inquiry Concerning the Deployment of            )   GN Docket No. 09-137
Advanced Telecommunications Capability to       )
All Americans in a Reasonable and Timely        )
Fashion and Possible Steps to Accelerate Such   )
Deployment Pursuant to Section 706 of the       )
Telecommunications Act                          )


To:    The Commission



                         COMMENTS--NBP PUBLIC NOTICE #4



JOINT COMMENTS OF THE CONSUMER ELECTRONICS ASSOCIATION AND THE
          TELECOMMUNICATIONS INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION


CONSUMER ELECTRONICS                            TELECOMMUNICATIONS INDUSTRY
ASSOCIATION                                     ASSOCIATION
James W. Hedlund                                Danielle Coffey, Vice President, Government
Vice President, Regulatory Affairs                Affairs
1919 S. Eads St.                                Rebecca Schwartz, Director, Regulatory and
Arlington, VA 22202                               Government Affairs
                                                10 G Street N.W.
                                                Suite 550
                                                Washington, DC 20002

                                                         Their Attorneys
October 6, 2009
                                                   TABLE OF CONTENTS

SUMMARY.................................................................................................................................... ii
INTRODUCTION .......................................................................................................................... 2
DISCUSSION ................................................................................................................................. 4
I.        ACCESSIBILITY AND AFFORDABILITY BARRIERS FACED BY PEOPLE
          WITH DISABILITIES (SECTION 1) ................................................................................ 4
II.       TECHNOLOGICAL BARRIERS AND SOLUTIONS (SECTION 2).............................. 7
          A.         Broadband Networks and Services (Section 2.a).................................................... 7
          B.         Broadband Equipment, Software, Content and Tech Support (Section 2.b) .......... 8
III.      FURTHERING NATIONAL PURPOSES AND PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES
          (SECTION 3) .................................................................................................................... 12
IV.       FEDERAL, STATE, LOCAL AND TRIBAL RESOURCES TO MAKE
          BROADBAND ACCESSIBLE AND AFFORDABLE TO PEOPLE WITH
          DISABILITIES (SECTION 4) ......................................................................................... 13
V.        POLICY SOLUTIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS PANEL (SECTION 5) .......... 13
          A.         Additional Legislative and Regulatory Action Relating to the Accessibility
                     and Universal Service Provisions in the Communications Act (Section 5.a)....... 13
          B.         Other Legislative and Regulatory Action (Section 5.b)........................................ 15
          C.         Non-Regulatory Actions (Section 5.c).................................................................. 17
CONCLUSION............................................................................................................................. 18
                                           SUMMARY

        CEA/TIA share policymakers’ objective of promoting and improving accessibility for
communications devices and services. The legacy of our nation’s communications accessibility
laws and regulations arose out of the then-predominant wireline, circuit-switched, rate regulated
environment, and captioning regulations similarly were conceived with traditional video
programming media and consumer devices in mind. The broadband ecosystem today, however,
is highly competitive, decentralized and dispersed, and policymakers need to re-think the
traditional “top-down” approach to accessibility regulation. Congress and the Commission have
also consistently understood that even well-intentioned rules can undermine innovation and work
to the detriment of persons with and without disabilities. These concerns are even more acute in
today’s broadband marketplace.

        Accessibility and Affordability Barriers Faced by People with Disabilities (Section 1).
The aggregate numbers of persons with various disabilities is an important but only a threshold
question, as different degrees and combinations of disability warrant different technical
solutions. User needs are not stagnant and individual needs may change due to circumstances,
age, health and environment. For purposes of this inquiry, the Commission must first define
what devices fit into the “mass market” and “mainstream” categories. In order to encourage
rather than stifle innovation in broadband, the Commission should focus on individual products
and services once the market indicates they have become commercially viable and widely
adopted. The Commission should also clarify the “percentages” it considers relevant for
purposes of this inquiry, as different methodologies will have different policy implications.

       Technological Barriers and Solutions (Section 2). (§ 2.a) The Commission must
consider that the costs of an accessibility mandate can extend beyond the monetary costs of
product design and development by deterring innovation and delaying new product entry, to the
detriment businesses and consumers, those with or without disabilities. With respect to 911
network capabilities, stakeholder coordination is critical, and much of this effort will necessarily
need to come from PSAPs and the state and local governments who finance them without undue
focus on backward compatibility for legacy PSAP technologies.

        (§ 2.b) Policymakers must appreciate that incorporating accessibility technologies and
features into communications devices and services may have real technical implications for the
costs and capabilities of equipment and services for all consumers, regardless of disability. With
respect to interoperability in particular, the communications industry is decentralized and
dispersed. The multitude of technologies in the broadband ecosystem (some converging and
some not), and the need for interoperability among unaffiliated vendors, service and application
providers, must be accounted for in determining the technical and commercial viability of a
particular accessibility feature. Widespread participation in industry standards bodies by all
affected stakeholders, and Commission facilitation of those efforts, is important to address this
issue.

         With respect to Assistive Technology (“AT”), the Commission should not presume that
regulatory action is needed to promote “openness” for AT vendors. In addition, the term
“universal design” needs to be defined in order to meaningfully discuss its impact on
accessibility. There is a significant risk that such an approach, even if well-intended, would
stifle innovation. Policymakers’ objective should be to achieve the degree of accessibility

                                                 ii
appropriate for individual products and services once they become commercially viable and
widely adopted in the market. The Commission, other policymakers, and affected stakeholders
should focus on the optimal means of achieving this objective without diminishing innovation –
which may vary and may not require regulatory intervention at all, depending on the particular
disability and technology involved. Finally, a preference toward “accessibility” over
“compatibility” with AT is increasingly outdated in today’s broadband ecosystem, where third-
party technologies for all consumers, irrespective of disability, are increasingly software- or
application-based.

        Furthering National Purposes and People with Disabilities (Section 3). The
widespread deployment of broadband in itself has enormous potential to promote the
Commission’s and Congress’s objectives by providing new telework and educational
opportunities for persons with disabilities. Also, a number of ongoing proceedings are already
under way regarding 911/E911 services in particular, which highlight the technology challenges
that wireless and interconnected VoIP providers already face.

       Federal, State, Local and Tribal Resources to Make Broadband Accessible and
Affordable to People with Disabilities (Section 4). Federal government support for an
information clearinghouse for stakeholders would be tremendously helpful.

        Policy Solutions and Recommendations Panel (Section 5). (§ 5.a) CEA/TIA are
committed to working with disabilities groups to try to find common ground as H.R. 3101 is
considered in the 111th Congress. Substantial differences between today’s rapidly evolving
broadband ecosystem and the traditional telecommunications and video programming
marketplace militate in favor of flexible, consensus- and standards-driven approaches, although
the Commission’s application of Section 255 and HAC regulations has helped to achieve
significant success without unduly impeding innovation. Regarding captioning, the video
marketplace now has multiple multi-purpose devices receiving content from different services.
Rather than outdated decoder circuitry, a software based solution may be more appropriate and
flexible, and may not require any regulatory action at all.

       (§ 5.b) Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act can be useful for identifying accessible
technologies and underscores how innovation and the business need to serve a particular market
segment can provide real incentives to promote accessibility in mainstream products. Section
508’s quid pro quo legal framework, however, does not offer a useful paradigm for Commission
regulatory action here. It is also not apparent that any regulatory action is needed to promote
open standards and interoperability between broadband technologies and AT. Moreover,
implementation of an “overarching accessibility principle” would need further definition if
policymakers are to avoid a regulatory framework that stifles innovation.

        (§ 5.c) The Commission could encourage and facilitate the development of a
clearinghouse for accessibility information in which all stakeholders provide input. Industry
stakeholders would provide information on new accessible products and accessibility features,
while stakeholders in the disabilities community would provide data and input on new
technologies and features that they are offering or would like to have considered. Finally, with
respect to complaint information, the quarterly snapshot of information the Commission
publishes summarizing the number of complaints received is adequate.


                                                iii
                                       Before the
                            Federal Communications Commission
                                  Washington, DC 20554

In the Matter of                                 )
                                                 )
International Comparison and Consumer            )   GN Docket No. 09-47
Survey Requirements in the Broadband Data        )
Improvement Act                                  )
                                                 )
A National Broadband Plan for Our Future         )   GN Docket No. 09-51
                                                 )
Inquiry Concerning the Deployment of             )   GN Docket No. 09-137
Advanced Telecommunications Capability to        )
All Americans in a Reasonable and Timely         )
Fashion and Possible Steps to Accelerate Such    )
Deployment Pursuant to Section 706 of the        )
Telecommunications Act                           )

To:       The Commission

                           COMMENTS--NBP PUBLIC NOTICE #4

JOINT COMMENTS OF THE CONSUMER ELECTRONICS ASSOCIATION AND THE
          TELECOMMUNICATIONS INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION

          The Consumer Electronics Association (“CEA”) 1 and the Telecommunications Industry

Association (“TIA”) 2 (together, “CEA/TIA”) hereby file joint comments in response to the




1
  CEA is the principal U.S. trade association of the consumer electronics and information
technologies industries. CEA’s more than 2,200 member companies include the world’s leading
consumer electronics manufacturers. CEA’s members design, manufacture, distribute, and sell a
wide range of consumer products including television receivers and monitors, computers,
computer television tuner cards, digital video recorders, game devices, navigation devices, music
players, telephones, radios, and products that combine a variety of these features and pair them
with services – all as chosen by consumers in an open marketplace.
2
  TIA represents the global information and communications technology industry through
standards development, advocacy, tradeshows, business opportunities, market intelligence and
world-wide environmental regulatory analysis. Its 600 member companies manufacture or
supply the products and services used in the provision of broadband and broadband-enabled
applications. With roots dating back to 1924, TIA enhances the business environment for
broadband, mobile wireless, information technology, networks, cable, satellite and unified
communications. Members’ products and services empower communications in every industry
(continued on next page)
Commission’s Public Notice seeking comment in advance of its October 20, 2009 workshop on

broadband accessibility for people with disabilities. 3    Policymakers’ objective in this arena

should be to encourage the market to achieve the degree of accessibility appropriate for

individual products and services once they become commercially viable and widely adopted.

The Commission and affected stakeholders should focus on the optimal means of achieving this

objective without stifling innovation – which may vary and may not require regulatory

intervention at all, depending on the particular disability and technology involved.

                                       INTRODUCTION

       CEA/TIA share policymakers’ objective of promoting and improving accessibility for

communications devices and services. CEA/TIA and their member companies have been at the

forefront of private sector and government-led efforts in this regard, such as the development of

industry standards for Hearing Aid Compatibility (“HAC”) and Closed Captioning, support for

the efforts of the Internet Captioning Forum (now under the auspices of the Society of Motion

Picture and Television Engineers (“SMPTE”)), the Commission’s Consumer Advisory

Committee Digital Closed Captioning and Video Description Technical Working Group, 4 the

United States Access Board’s Telecommunications and Electronic and Information Technology

Advisory Committee (“TEITAC”), and the development and deployment of new technologies



and market, including healthcare, education, security, public safety, transportation, government,
the military, the environment and entertainment.
3
  See Public Notice, Comment Sought on Broadband Accessibility for People with Disabilities
Workshop II: Barriers, Opportunities, and Policy Recommendations, NBP Public Notice #4, GN
Docket Nos. 09-47,09-51, 09-137, DA 09-2080 (CGB rel. Sept. 18, 2009) (“Public Notice”).
4
  Public Notice, FCC Announces Establishment of Technical Working Group to Study Digital
Closed Captioning and Video Description Issues, Appointment of Members, Agenda for First
Meeting, DA 09-995 (CGB rel. May 1, 2009); Digital Closed Captioning and Video Description
Technical Working Group Committee, Meeting Transcript May 18, 2009, available at
http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DOC-291080A1.pdf.


                                                 2
such as text-to-speech, voice commands, and other innovations that benefit persons with

disabilities.

        As the Commission considers issues concerning access to and adoption of broadband

technologies for persons with disabilities, it is important to keep in mind that the legacy of our

nation’s communications accessibility laws and regulations, such as the relay service obligations

of Section 225 of the Communications Act of 1934 (the “Act”), Section 255 of the Act, and

HAC arose out of the then-predominant wireline, circuit-switched, rate regulated environment.

Closed captioning rules and regulations similarly were conceived with traditional video

programming media and consumer devices in mind. The broadband ecosystem today, however,

is open, highly competitive, decentralized and dispersed, and technologies are evolving and

converging and innovations emerging so rapidly that policymakers need to re-think the

traditional “top-down” approach to accessibility regulation.

        Importantly, Congress and the Commission have also consistently understood that

requiring accessibility for every newly-introduced device and service, covering every disability,

can undermine innovation and work to the detriment of persons with and without disabilities. 5

These concerns are even more acute in today’s broadband marketplace, which is global in nature,

and consists of multiple, unaffiliated service providers, competing technologies, diverse vendors,

and third-party application providers.




5
  Section 255 of the Communications Act of 1934, for example, applies a “readily achievable”
standard to telecommunications equipment and services. 47 U.S.C. § 255. The Hearing Aid
Compatibility Act of 1988 exempted a number of services outright from that statute, including
then-nascent wireless technologies, and applies a multi-pronged approach to lifting that
exemption. See id. § 610(b)(1)-(2). The captioning requirements of the Act authorize the
Commission to exempt “classes of programs, or services” where “economically burdensome” or
where compliance “would result in an undue burden.” See id. § 613(d)(1).


                                                 3
       The Commission began an important but not exhaustive inquiry in its August Workshop

and the Public Notice. CEA/TIA thus provide the comments below to help guide the

Commission’s consideration of these issues in the upcoming Workshop.

                                          DISCUSSION

I.     ACCESSIBILITY AND AFFORDABILITY BARRIERS FACED BY
       PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES (SECTION 1)

       The Commission is correct to seek information on both the extent and degree of various

disabilities, and the particular accessibility solutions and concerns of importance to the

disabilities community. 6 A genuine exchange of such information among all stakeholders will

be an enormous step forward toward addressing many of the concerns raised in this and other

proceedings.

       In this regard, the aggregate numbers of persons with various disabilities is an important

but only a threshold question. 7 Different degrees of disability warrant different technical

solutions. For example, a hearing aid compatible handset can be helpful for someone with

partial hearing loss, whereas enhanced messaging capability may be more useful for someone

who is completely deaf. Similarly, a device with a touch screen may be problematic for someone

who is totally blind, but a touch screen with magnification or “zoom” capability may be perfectly

usable for someone with only partial vision loss. 8

       The Commission seeks comment on the extent of accessibility features for “mass market

consumer broadband equipment and devices,” and “mainstream devices.” 9 To answer this



6
  See Public Notice at 2-5 (§1.a-1.f).
7
  See id.
8
  See TIA Comments in GN Docket No. 09-51, filed Sept. 15, 2009, at 4-5 (“TIA Comments”).
9
  See Public Notice at 2-5 (§§ 1.a-1.f).


                                                 4
question, however, it is critical that the Commission first define what devices and products fit

into those categories for purposes of this inquiry. For example, does simple commercial

availability of a device render it “mass market” or “mainstream?” Does a Beta or “1.0” version

of a product, in only limited release or that does not yet have broad consumer appeal, fit into

those categories? Independent of accessibility considerations, CEA/TIA submit that in the

broadband marketplace, where many products and applications may have a short shelf life (if

they are picked up by consumers or service providers at all), the answer to each of these

questions is necessarily “no.” In order to avoid stifling innovation in the broadband sector, and

to allow for the cycle of experimentation, failure and success that is critical to the development

of technology in the marketplace, the Commission should therefore focus on individual products

and services once they become commercially viable and widely adopted in the market, as it has

already done to a large extent in the wireless HAC context. 10 The Commission must also avoid




10
    See Amendment of the Commission’s Rules Governing Hearing Aid-Compatible Mobile
Handsets, Petition of American National Standards Institute Accredited Standards Committee
C63 (EMC) ANSI ASC C63®, First Report and Order, 23 FCC Rcd 3406, ¶ 73 (2008) (“2008
HAC Order”) (expressing concern that the rule exempting de minimis handset offerings from the
HAC requirements “not be limited in a manner that would compromise its effectiveness in
promoting innovation and competition” and “not[ing] that large manufacturers with highly
successful initial devices may not continue indefinitely to produce only two or fewer handset
models, but instead may expand their product offerings … thereby bringing themselves under the
hearing aid compatibility rules and benefiting consumers both with and without hearing loss.”)
(“2008 HAC Order”); Section 68.4(a) of the Commission’s Rules Governing Hearing Aid-
Compatible Telephones, Report and Order, 18 FCC Rcd 16753, ¶¶ 78-80 (2003) (“we have
tailored our rules to ensure they do not impair the introduction of new technologies … [and]
allow manufacturers the ability to experiment with and design new technologies and features” as
“requiring compliance in all phones, in the near term, may hinder the introduction of such
wireless phones” and “requiring 100 percent compliance at this time could have the unintended
effect of stifling innovation.”); see also 2008 HAC Order at ¶ 42 (Commission’s approach
“provides needed flexibility for Tier I carriers with large product lines to deploy new and
additional models over time while still ensuring that substantial numbers of compatible handset
(continued on next page)


                                                 5
mandating particular accessibility technologies or standards, recognizing that in the broadband

ecosystem an accessibility solution for a particular disability may be as mainstream as a

Bluetooth keyboard or existing Assistive Technology (“AT”).

       The Public Notice also does not clarify what denominator the Commission views as

relevant for purposes of this inquiry. Does the Public Notice refer to the “percentage” of

aggregate devices in the hands of all end users, just those end users with that particular disability,

the percentage of models or device types, or some other metric? Nor does the Public Notice seek

comment on whether the percentage of such devices is the appropriate metric for achieving the

widespread availability of accessible technologies in the first place. 11

       These are important questions, as different methodologies will have different policy

implications. In the wireless HAC context, for example, the Commission has applied its rules on

a per-model basis approach with some success, but this approach can also have distortive effects

on a manufacturer’s and service provider’s handset portfolio, effectively forcing the

discontinuance or delay of certain models in order to ensure that applicable benchmarks are

reached. The percentage of accessible devices alone, moreover, does not account for disparities

in the commercial availability, price, and consumer acceptance of different products and services

that will affect the availability and adoption of accessibility features.

       Finally, the Public Notice appears to couch the Commission’s inquiry in terms of the

Section 255 distinction between and preference toward “accessibility” over “compatibility” with




models will be available to consumers” and “represents a beneficial compromise between
technological constraints and the needs of hard-of-hearing consumers.”).
11
   See Public Notice at 2-5 (§§ 1.a-1.f).


                                                   6
assistive technologies (“AT”). 12 This framework is increasingly outdated in today’s broadband

ecosystem, where third-party technologies for all consumers, irrespective of disability, are

increasingly software- or application-based, and where the use of Application Programming

Interfaces (“APIs”) and other common programmatic methodologies may facilitate more

flexibility for consumers and manufacturers alike. 13

II.    TECHNOLOGICAL BARRIERS AND SOLUTIONS (SECTION 2)

       A.      Broadband Networks and Services (Section 2.a)

       The Public Notice states “[t]his panel will discuss technological barriers, solutions, and

costs as they relate to broadband networks, services, equipment, software, content, and tech

support.” 14 As the Commission considers these issues, it must understand that the costs of an

accessibility mandate can extend beyond the monetary costs attributable to product design and

development. Regulation can have unintended consequences, such as deterring innovation and

delaying new product entry, each of which poses economic costs on businesses and consumers.

Indeed, it could inadvertently hamper the development and introduction of technologies that

improve accessibility for persons with disabilities. 15




12
   Under Section 255 of the Act, a product or service must be “accessible” to the extent readily
achievable, and if it is not accessible, must be “compatible with existing peripheral devices or
specialized customer premises equipment commonly used by individuals with disabilities to
achieve access, if readily achievable.” 47 U.S.C. §§ 255(b)-(d).
13
   See TIA Comments at 4-5.
14
   Public Notice at 5 (§ 2.a).
15
   Apple’s iPhone, for example, is not hearing aid compatible and does not have a tactile keypad.
Nevertheless, the device incorporates a number of innovative accessibility features that have
proven extremely helpful to persons with other disabilities, such as partial vision loss and
deafness. See http://www.apple.com/iphone/iphone-3gs/accessibility.html. If hearing aid
compatibility and a tactile keypad were required of all handsets, the introduction of the device
may not have occurred at all.


                                                  7
       With respect to 911 network capabilities in particular, 16 stakeholder coordination is

critical. Much of this effort and leadership, though, will necessarily need to come from Public

Safety Answering Points (“PSAPs”) and the state and local governments who finance those

operations, largely independent from industry. Technical issues that have arisen, such as real

time text and PSAPs’ limited multimedia capabilities, are currently under consideration in

various fora, including the TEITAC, 17 NENA, 18 the Commission’s NET 911 Act

implementation proceedings and related efforts at the U.S. Department of Transportation, 19 and

in the European Union’s REACH 112 project. 20 In any event, it is important that the public

safety sector be a forward-looking partner with industry in this endeavor, and not focus unduly

on backward compatibility for legacy PSAP technologies that could have the unintended effect

of hindering broadband adoption by consumers with disabilities.

       B.      Broadband Equipment, Software, Content and Tech Support (Section 2.b)

       Any regulatory or legislative action in this area will obviously have significant

implications for CEA/TIA and their members. As a general rule, it is important that

policymakers appreciate that incorporating built-in accessibility features into mainstream

technologies may have real technical implications for the costs and capabilities of equipment and



16
   See Public Notice at 5 (§ 2.a) (seeking comment on various issues related to 911 systems).
17
   See 71 Fed. Reg. 38,324 (July 6, 2006) (establishing the TEITAC). The TEITAC issued its
final report to the Board on April 8, 2008, which addressed real-time text capabilities at section
6. The Board is expected to seek input on a forthcoming Notice of Proposed Rulemaking this
fall.
18
   See http://www.nena.org/ng911-project.
19
    See http://www.its.dot.gov/ng911/index.htm (DOT initiative). The New and Emerging
Technologies 911 Improvement Act of 2008 (“NET 911 Act”) requires that the Commission
work with public safety organizations, industry participants and others in the area of next
generation 911 technical standards and related matters.
20
   See www.reach112.eu.


                                                8
services for all consumers, regardless of disability. Manufacturers’ ability to incorporate

particular accessibility features on certain devices may be limited by processor speeds, memory,

chipset capability, screen size, or battery power, and certain solutions may affect the weight,

size, and appearance of a device in a manner that compromises its commercial viability. 21 The

Commission should also consider how issues concerning the transparency of process and

reasonable and non-discriminatory licensing terms of intellectual property rights may affect the

commercial and legal viability of accessibility features. To the extent that accessibility is

achieved via the addition of a third party application or accessory, the effect of that third party

technology on user privacy, as well as important device functions such as security features and

location capability, are factors that manufacturers and service providers must take into account to

ensure that their products and services are commercially viable – again, irrespective of

accessibility considerations.

       As discussed in the Public Notice, at the August 20th Workshop TIA also noted concerns

and challenges regarding the “interoperability of various pieces of the continuum of the

ecosystem for broadband.” 22 Long gone are the days in which a service provider owned and

dictated all of the services, facilities, technologies, and uses of its network. The communications

industry is open, decentralized and dispersed, as a typical ISP provides service through varying

combinations of interconnection, access, peering, transit and other arrangements with third-party

vendors over which consumers access applications, content and services offered by parties

unaffiliated with the ISP. The multitude of technologies in the broadband ecosystem (some



21
 See TIA Comments at 4.
22
  See Public Notice at 6 (§ 2.b) (quoting Statement of Mary Brooner on behalf of TIA,
Workshop Transcript at 37).


                                                  9
converging and some not), and unaffiliated vendors, application, content and service providers,

must be considered in determining the technical and commercial viability of a particular

accessibility feature or function. Irrespective of any future regulatory or legislative changes, to

maximize the extent of accessibility in the broadband marketplace, widespread participation in

industry standards bodies by all affected stakeholders, and Commission encouragement of those

efforts, is necessary to address this issue.

        In particular, the Commission seeks comment on “[h]ow much accessibility should be

incorporated in mass market equipment through universal design principles and how much

accessibility should be gained through assistive technologies?” 23 As a threshold matter, the

Commission should not presume that regulatory action is needed to promote “openness” for AT

vendors. 24 Further, the term “universal design” needs to be defined if policymakers and

stakeholders are to engage in a meaningful discussion over its impact and merits as a policy

objective. CEA/TIA believe there is a significant risk that such an approach, even if well-

intended, would stifle innovation. While voluntary technical standards can provide

manufacturers with some engineering certainty, defining compliance solely in terms of a


23
   Id. at 6 (§ 2.b).
24
   See id. Indeed, it does not appear that such action is necessary to promote openness between
AT and broadband equipment and software. Computer operating systems, such as Windows,
Macintosh, Java and Linux that run on desktops, laptops and netbooks provide open accessibility
APIs and additional system services and frameworks published specifically to allow AT vendors
to build specialty hardware and software that interoperate will with mainstream products. These
APIs allow operating systems and applications to expose information that facilitates
interoperability to assistive technologies such as screen readers and magnifiers. Work is
underway in organizations such as ISO/IEC JTC1/SC35/WG6 to promote broader awareness of
these accessibility APIs. For web platforms, open specifications such as the W3C WAI-ARIA
enable web content authors to properly convey information in document-level markup to
assistive technologies. In addition to publishing technical specifications, many companies have
AT vendor programs that promote regular communication and interaction between AT and IT
engineers during product development cycles.


                                                 10
particular “universal design” standard can create uncertainty and have the adverse effect of

deterring innovation by skewing a manufacturer or developer away from creating a non-standard

feature or design that consumers may demand, even if accessibility is ultimately preserved or

even improved. 25 This concern is particularly acute if the standard requires a substantial degree

of backward compatibility with legacy assistive technologies. 26 Additionally, if the term is

defined to require accessibility for every disability in every device or service, then it is hard to

imagine how any manufacturer or service provider will be able to comply with such an

obligation.

       As discussed above, policymakers’ objective should be to achieve the degree of

accessibility appropriate for individual products and services once they become commercially

viable and widely adopted. The Commission, other policymakers, and affected stakeholders

should focus on the optimal means of achieving this objective without diminishing innovation –

which may vary and may not require regulatory intervention at all, depending on the particular

disability and technology involved. Indeed, the Commission should also consider that products

and services are often used by consumers in ways initially unimagined by manufacturers and



25
   The lag time between the development of new innovative technologies and availability of
public standards has already come to a head in the wireless HAC context. But for a
Commission-adopted rule exemption for Wi-Fi technologies, handsets capable of facilitating
interconnected VoIP services via Wi-Fi technologies would not be eligible for HAC certification
– thus directly affecting wireless handset manufacturers’ and service providers’ portfolios. See
47 C.F.R. § 20.19(b); 2008 HAC Order at ¶ 66 (rule adopted “to provide certainty and avoid
discouraging the use of currently-available Wi-Fi technology during the period until we address
the status of Wi-Fi”). This is the case despite significant evidence that low-power Wi-Fi
operations do not create the compatibility issues that resulted in the development of the C63.19
standard in the first place.
26
   The wireless industry, for example, expended considerable resources in the late 1990s to make
their networks and devices compatible with TTY devices, even as those devices and services
have been increasingly overtaken by messaging-based technologies among deaf users.


                                                  11
service providers. Consumers themselves are notoriously innovative at discovering how to adapt

products to serve their needs and address their disabilities.

          Finally, with respect to the degree to which “accessibility should be gained through

assistive technologies,” as noted above, the Section 255 framework favors internal

“accessibility” over “compatibility” with AT. This framework is increasingly outdated, where

third-party technologies are increasingly software- or application-based, and where connections

and accessories, such as Bluetooth headsets, are common service features irrespective of a user’s

disability.

III.      FURTHERING NATIONAL                  PURPOSES         AND     PEOPLE        WITH
          DISABILITIES (SECTION 3)

          At this time, many of these information points on which the Public Notice seeks

comments are more appropriately provided by other stakeholders. CEA/TIA nonetheless note

that the widespread deployment of broadband in itself has enormous potential to promote the

Commission’s and Congress’s objectives by providing new telework and educational

opportunities for persons with disabilities. Also, with respect to issues concerning Public Safety

and Homeland Security, 27 a number of ongoing proceedings are already under way regarding

911/E911 services in particular, which highlight the technology challenges that wireless and

interconnected VoIP providers already face. 28 Indeed, the Commission’s experience with E911

deployment – involving multiple service providers with different transmission protocols and

facilities, and different PSAPs with different capabilities – underscores that the types of




27
     See Public Notice at 7 (§ 3.c).
28
     See supra at 7-8.


                                                  12
interoperability technology challenges are very real in today’s communications marketplace and

equally relevant to broadband accessibility.

IV.    FEDERAL, STATE, LOCAL AND TRIBAL RESOURCES TO MAKE
       BROADBAND ACCESSIBLE AND AFFORDABLE TO PEOPLE WITH
       DISABILITIES (SECTION 4)

       For this section as well, at this time many of the specific points raised in the Public

Notice are more appropriately addressed by information from other stakeholders. The Public

Notice nonetheless asks “[w]hat federal resources are available or could be available to fund

broadband access and equipment for people with disabilities?” 29 As discussed in more detail

below, Commission or other Federal government support for development of an information

clearinghouse for stakeholders would be tremendously helpful in this regard.

V.     POLICY SOLUTIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS PANEL (SECTION 5)

       A.      Additional Legislative and Regulatory Action Relating to the
               Accessibility and Universal Service Provisions in the Communications
               Act (Section 5.a)

       The Public Notice asks “[w]hat additional legislative and regulatory action is needed to

address accessibility and affordability challenges?” 30 CEA/TIA are, of course, aware of H.R.

3101, 31 which takes a markedly different approach to accessibility regulation than current law.

CEA/TIA look forward to continuing to contribute to and work with disabilities groups in the




29
   See Public Notice at 7-8 (§ 4.a).
30
   Id. at 8 (§ 5.a).
31
    See Twenty-first Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2009, 111th
Congress, H.R. 3101 (introduced June 26, 2009).


                                                13
legislative process. 32 As policymakers consider changes to current law and policy, CEA/TIA

urges the Commission to account for the factors discussed in this filing.

       As noted above, there are substantial differences between today’s rapidly evolving

broadband ecosystem and the traditional telecommunications and video programming

marketplace that militate in favor of flexible, consensus- and standards-driven approaches. 33

That said, the Commission’s application of Section 255 and HAC regulations have helped to

achieve significant success in promoting accessibility in equipment and services, without unduly

impeding innovation. 34 Service providers and manufacturers have internalized accessibility

considerations into their product development and consumer care processes, and continue to

expand and improve the accessibility features available to consumers, such as screen reader

technologies and magnifiers, text-to-speech and other voice output capabilities, voice commands,

instant messaging capabilities, and new tactile features. Regarding HAC in particular, the

Commission’s records reflect the fact that hundreds of HAC handset models were available




32
   Among other things, H.R. 3101, if enacted, would impose a more stringent “undue burden”
standard on accessibility for new “advanced communications” services and devices, would reject
the current statutory framework for affected VoIP devices in favor of a blanket HAC obligation,
and in all likelihood would have the effect of extending captioning and video description to
Internet-based services and equipment. CEA/TIA representatives have provided detailed
suggestions and met with legislative staff in both the current Congress and the 110th Congress
and, on September 14, 2009, CEA/TIA, jointly with CTIA – The Wireless Association®,
reached out to the Coalition of Organizations for Accessible Technology (“COAT”) to see where
common ground is possible and provided a detailed overview of many of industry’s concerns
with the legislation in its current form.
33
   See supra at 3, 9-10.
34
   See Public Notice at 8 (§ 5.a). The Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau’s quarterly
report on informal complaints indicate very few Section 255- and HAC-related complaints are
filed. See News Release, Report on Informal Consumer Complaints Regarding Access to
Telecommunications for People with Disabilities, at 1 (rel. Sept. 8, 2009).


                                                14
during the first half of this year, a fact which speaks volumes about how a consensus- and

standards-driven process that does account for marketplace realities can succeed. 35

       Regarding captioning issues, 36 the video marketplace now has multiple multi-purpose

devices receiving content from different services, and decoder circuitry is an outdated solution.

Rather, a software based solution, such as those facilitated through the Internet Captioning

Forum, may be more appropriate and flexible, and may not require any regulatory action at all.

The Commission should make no presumptions concerning the appropriateness or feasibility of

any particular captioning technology mandate. Indeed, industry stakeholders are already

working voluntarily to resolve captioning interoperability issues. As captioning is complex and

requires that multiple and diverse parties coordinate and resolve interoperability issues,

CEA/TIA submit that policymakers should first focus on traditional TV programming content,

and then move to other kinds of programming involving other transmission technologies. 37

       B.      Other Legislative and Regulatory Action (Section 5.b)

       The Public Notice asks whether the accessibility requirements applicable to the

procurement of electronic and information technology by federal agencies be more broadly

required. 38 Industry’s experience with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, 39 notably

industry’s use of a Voluntary Product Accessibility Template to provide to government agencies,

can be useful for purposes of identifying accessible technologies and how mainstream IT meets



35
    See http://wireless.fcc.gov/hac/index.htm?job=reports_dm (reports of handsets offered by
manufacturers in first half of 2009).
36
   See Public Notice at 8 (§ 5.a).
37
   See supra note 4 (Consumer Advisory Committee Digital Closed Captioning and Video
Description Technical Working Group efforts).
38
   See Public Notice at 8 (§ 5.b).
39
   See 29 U.S.C. §794d.


                                                15
common accessibility standards. This experience also underscores how innovation and the

business need to serve a particular market segment can provide real incentives to promote

accessibility in mainstream products. The Access Board’s Section 508 regulations will be

undergoing revisions as a result of the TEITAC’s work, and the Commission should ensure that

its regulations are harmonized to the extent appropriate. Section 508’s quid pro quo legal

framework, however, whereby accessibility is a condition for obtaining access to federal

procurement dollars, reflects the sort of “gatekeeper” approach to introducing new technologies

that, when applied to the broader commercial marketplace, would deter innovation and delay the

introduction of new technologies.

          As noted above, it is not at all apparent that any regulatory action is needed to promote

open standards and interoperability between broadband technologies and AT. 40 Additionally,

and echoing CEA/TIA’s concerns for a “universal design” mandate, implementation of an

“overarching accessibility principle” would need further definition and examination to avoid a

regulatory framework that stifles innovation. 41 For the economic viability of their products and

services, manufacturers and service providers require certainty as to the applicable technical and

engineering regulatory requirements; a “principle” alone is incompatible with the realities of

product design and development. 42 From industry’s perspective, it is critical that policymakers

provide clarity and certainty as to the scope and the particulars of any new requirements.




40
   See Public Notice at 8 (§ 5.b); discussion supra at 10.
41
   See Public Notice at 8 (§ 5.b).
42
   Such an approach begs a number of important threshold questions. Would the principle be
based on particular features for particular disabilities? Or would it entail a sweeping universal
design approach (for which the problems are discussed in more detail above)? Moreover, to
whom would such an approach apply? Manufacturers? Off-network as well as on-network
(continued on next page)


                                                  16
       C.      Non-Regulatory Actions (Section 5.c)

       The Commission can and should take a number of non-regulatory actions in this area.

Most significantly, the Commission could encourage and facilitate the development of a

clearinghouse for accessibility information. For such an approach to be effective, however, it is

important that all stakeholders provide input. Manufacturers, service providers, and even

application developers (of both consumer products and AT) could provide information on new

accessible products and accessibility features. Importantly, stakeholders in the disabilities

community could provide data and input on new technologies and features that they are offering

or would like to have considered, ranging from proposed hardware- or software-based solutions,

to downloadable applications with accessibility benefits that may be commercially available

already.

       The Commission and other policymakers should also continue to encourage the efforts of

stakeholder experts and incorporate those efforts into their own policymaking decisions, whether

through advisory committees such as the CAC or the Access Board’s TEITAC. Collaborative

standards groups and consortia such as the HAC efforts convened by TIA and ATIS in recent

years, and collaborative private sector efforts, have contributed significantly to accessibility

breakthroughs in recent years, and will continue to do so. 43 As a recent example, in November

of 2008, an Ad Hoc Group was formed by a Technical Committee of the SMPTE to continue the

efforts of the Internet Captioning Forum and develop a voluntary industry standard for



products? Interconnected as well as non-interconnected services? Third party application
providers and developers, who may be subject to no other Commission regulations?
43
   Examples of these efforts include TIA-1083’s standard for cordless phones; the Mobile
Manufacturers Forum website in the Global Accessibility Reporting Initiative; the Internet
Captioning Forum; TIA-1001 for TTY-Internet Protocol compatibility; and C63.19 for HAC;
CEA-608 Line 21 Data Services; and CEA-708 Digital Television (DTV) Closed Captioning.


                                                 17
captioning of video content distributed over broadband networks. Group participants include

content providers, broadcasters, caption and subtitling solution providers, professional equipment

manufacturers and consumer electronics manufacturers. SMPTE has reached out to the

disability community and established formal liaison with COAT to exchange information, solicit

feedback and ensure the needs of disabled individuals are taken into account during the

development of this standard. The Ad Hoc Group expects to complete work on its first set of

standards in mid-2010. 44  

       CEA/TIA believe that the quarterly snapshot of information the Commission publishes

summarizing the number of complaints it receives is adequate. 45 As the Commission notes in its

periodic reports, the information does not speak to the merits of the complaints. 46 If the

Commission detects any particular trends, it can always initiate a rulemaking proceeding or,

where a genuine rule violation may exist, an enforcement investigation with all of the attendant

due process safeguards the Act provides.

                                         CONCLUSION

       For the foregoing reasons, CEA/TIA urge the Commission to focus its broadband

accessibility efforts on measures that achieve the degree of accessibility appropriate for




44
   The Group’s goal is to develop a single captioning format for broadband that is interoperable
with broadcast and other media applications. This standard format will enable captioning
information to be authored once, simplifying workflows and spurring greater adoption and
availability of captioned video content. The work includes developing a migration path to
provide lossless automatic interchange with current broadcast solutions including CEA 608,
CEA 708, DVB Subtitling (EN 300-743) and Teletext (ETS 300 706, WST, CCST, MOJI, etc). 
45
   See Public Notice at 8 (§ 5.b).
46
    See News Release, Report on Informal Consumer Complaints Regarding Access to
Telecommunications for People with Disabilities, at 1 (rel. Sept. 8, 2009) (“The existence of a
complaint does not necessarily indicate wrongdoing by the company at issue.”).


                                                 18
individual products and services once they become commercially viable and widely adopted in

the consumer marketplace, taking into account the various considerations described above.

                                                   Respectfully submitted,

CONSUMER ELECTRONICS                            TELECOMMUNICATIONS INDUSTRY
ASSOCIATION                                     ASSOCIATION



By:    /s/____________________                  By:     /s/____________________
       James W. Hedlund                                 Danielle Coffey, Vice President,
       Vice President, Regulatory Affairs                  Government Affairs
       1919 S. Eads St.                                 Rebecca Schwartz, Director,
       Arlington, VA 22202                                 Regulatory and Government Affairs
                                                        10 G Street N.W.
                                                        Suite 550
                                                        Washington, DC 20002

October 6, 2009




                                              19
ECFS Comment Submission: CONFIRMATION                                                     Page 1 of 1




                   The FCC Acknowledges Receipt of Comments From …
    Consumer Electronics Association and Telecommunications
                     Industry Association
                             …and Thank You for Your Comments

                          Your Confirmation Number is: '2009106307660 '
                             Date Received:               Oct 6 2009
                             Docket:                      09-51
                               Number of Files Transmitted: 1
                                                DISCLOSURE
                     This confirmation verifies that ECFS has received and
                     accepted your filing. However, your filing will be rejected
                     by ECFS if it contains macros, passwords, redlining,
                     read-only formatting, a virus or automated links to
                     source documents that is not included with your filing.
                     Filers are encouraged to retrieve and view their filing
                     within 24 hours of receipt of this confirmation. For any
                     problems contact the Help Desk at 202-418-0193.
                         Initiate a Submission | Search ECFS | Return to ECFS Home Page




http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/cgi-bin/websql/prod/ecfs/upload_v2.hts                            10/6/2009
ECFS Comment Submission: CONFIRMATION                                                     Page 1 of 1




                   The FCC Acknowledges Receipt of Comments From …
    Consumer Electronics Association and Telecommunications
                     Industry Association
                             …and Thank You for Your Comments

                          Your Confirmation Number is: '2009106961439 '
                             Date Received:               Oct 6 2009
                             Docket:                      09-47
                               Number of Files Transmitted: 1
                                                DISCLOSURE
                     This confirmation verifies that ECFS has received and
                     accepted your filing. However, your filing will be rejected
                     by ECFS if it contains macros, passwords, redlining,
                     read-only formatting, a virus or automated links to
                     source documents that is not included with your filing.
                     Filers are encouraged to retrieve and view their filing
                     within 24 hours of receipt of this confirmation. For any
                     problems contact the Help Desk at 202-418-0193.
                         Initiate a Submission | Search ECFS | Return to ECFS Home Page




http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/cgi-bin/websql/prod/ecfs/upload_v2.hts                            10/6/2009
ECFS Comment Submission: CONFIRMATION                                                     Page 1 of 1




                   The FCC Acknowledges Receipt of Comments From …
    Consumer Electronics Association and Telecommunications
                     Industry Association
                             …and Thank You for Your Comments

                          Your Confirmation Number is: '2009106976026 '
                             Date Received:               Oct 6 2009
                             Docket:                      09-137
                               Number of Files Transmitted: 1
                                                DISCLOSURE
                     This confirmation verifies that ECFS has received and
                     accepted your filing. However, your filing will be rejected
                     by ECFS if it contains macros, passwords, redlining,
                     read-only formatting, a virus or automated links to
                     source documents that is not included with your filing.
                     Filers are encouraged to retrieve and view their filing
                     within 24 hours of receipt of this confirmation. For any
                     problems contact the Help Desk at 202-418-0193.
                         Initiate a Submission | Search ECFS | Return to ECFS Home Page




http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/cgi-bin/websql/prod/ecfs/upload_v2.hts                            10/6/2009

				
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