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ACA Urges FCC To Limit New Closed Captioning Framework To Only Online Video Programming Providers And Distributors

Trade Group Says IP Cable Services Not Distributed Over The Internet Covered By Existing Rules

PITTSBURGH, October 20, 2011 - To achieve the goal of enhancing the ability of consumers to access video programming on the Internet, the American Cable Association encouraged the FCC to distinguish with care the entities covered by the new Internet Protocol closed captioning obligations from those already imposed on cable operators using IP to distribute the programming included with their cable service.  ACA supports the implementation of federal rules requiring online video programming providers and distributors to ensure consumers receive captions included with video programming that was first aired on television.

"ACA members have a long and successful history of complying with the FCC's current closed captioning rules, including where their cable service is delivered using IP.  This has enabled the delivery of closed captioning to consumers who need and have grown to expect these services.  Still, the FCC must be careful to avoid disrupting the current successful captioning framework by creating duplicative and potentially conflicting obligations on cable operators using IP to deliver their services," ACA President and CEO Matthew M. Polka said.

The FCC has been charged by Congress with implementing the Twenty-First Century Video Accessibility Act (CVAA), which expands closed captioning mandates to include video programming once published or exhibited on television and delivered using Internet Protocol.  ACA members that provide cable service already pass through all closed captioning data that is made available with programming and ensure the compatibility of set-top equipment under rules first adopted by the FCC in 1997.  These closed captioning mandates apply regardless of the distribution technology.

In comments filed Tuesday with the FCC, ACA stressed the need to keep separate the cable and online worlds within the context of the CVAA's new closed captioning mandates.  Cable operators covered by existing closed captioning rules that use IP but do not distribute programming over the Internet beyond their local franchise areas should remain subject only to the existing closed captioning rules, ACA said.

"The FCC must specify that traditional cable operators and the services that they offer remain subject solely to existing closed captioning obligations and dispute resolution mechanisms," Polka said.

By passing the CVAA, Congress intended to make closed captioning a dependable feature of the online video world, not to impose confusing and unworkable obligations on cable operators, ACA said.  The FCC in the Comcast-NBCU proceeding recognized a distinction between online video distributors-"OVDs"-and cable operators who give their cable subscribers the ability to access their video programming online. ACA said that the same distinction should apply to CVAA captioning mandates.

"ACA's recommended approach will avoid unnecessary confusion and compliance burdens and will not in any way frustrate the intent of the law, which is to use closed captioning mandates to expand access to video programming over the Internet for our hearing-impaired citizens," Polka said.

Regarding the creation of complaint procedures, ACA said it agreed with the FCC's recommended approach of looking to established policies that have not proven unduly burdensome for smaller cable operators.  The CVAA requires the FCC to not consider de minimis failures to comply as violations of the captioning rules.

Insofar as crafting a definition of de minimis is concerned, ACA urged the FCC to consider how existing captioning regulations treat de minimis failures.  Those rules, ACA noted, recognize that there may be times when it will be difficult to achieve 100% compliance. As a result, ACA said the FCC should rely on a case-by-case approach when determining whether the lack of captioning was in fact de minimis and reasonable under the circumstances.

"This is new terrain for the FCC, and ACA recommends that it tread lightly and observe what some have called the ‘high-tech Hippocratic Oath' - first, do no harm," Polka said.

About the American Cable Association

Based in Pittsburgh, the American Cable Association is a trade organization representing nearly 900 smaller and medium-sized, independent cable companies who provide broadband services for more than 7.6 million cable subscribers primarily located in rural and smaller suburban markets across America.  Through active participation in the regulatory and legislative process in Washington, D.C., ACA's members work together to advance the interests of their customers and ensure the future competitiveness and viability of their business.  For more information, visit http://www.americancable.org/

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