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S. 3304 (111th): Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010


The text of the bill below is as of May 4, 2010 (Introduced).


II

111th CONGRESS

2d Session

S. 3304

IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES

May 4, 2010

(for himself, Mr. Kerry, Mr. Conrad, and Mr. Dorgan) introduced the following bill; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation

A BILL

To increase the access of persons with disabilities to modern communications, and for other purposes.

1.

Short title; table of contents

(a)

Short title

This Act may be cited as the Equal Access to 21st Century Communications Act.

(b)

Table of contents

The table of contents for this Act is as follows:

Sec. 1. Short title; table of contents.

TITLE I—Increasing Access

Sec. 101. Definitions.

Sec. 102. Hearing aid compatibility.

Sec. 103. Relay services.

Sec. 104. Access to Internet-based services and equipment.

Sec. 105. Universal service.

Sec. 106. Emergency access and real-time text support.

Sec. 107. Internet access service interface.

TITLE II—Video descriptions and closed captioning

Sec. 201. Commission inquiry on closed captioning decoder and video description capability, user interfaces, and video programming guides and menus.

Sec. 202. Commission inquiry on the definition of consumer generated media.

Sec. 203. Closed captioning decoder and video description capability.

Sec. 204. Video description and closed captioning.

Sec. 205. User interface regulations.

Sec. 206. Access to video programming guides and menus.

I

Increasing Access

101.

Definitions

Section 3 of the Communications Act of 1934 (47 U.S.C. 153) is amended by adding at the end the following:

(54)

Advanced communications

The term advanced communications means Internet-based protocol, or any successor protocol, based devices and services that transmit voice, video conferencing, and text communications, and any application or service accessed over the Internet that provides for voice, video conferencing, or text communications, as determined necessary by the Federal Communications Commission.

(55)

Disability

The term disability has the meaning given such term under section 3(2)(A) of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (42 U.S.C. 12102(2)(A)).

(56)

Interconnected VoIP service

The term interconnected VoIP service has the meaning given such term under section 9.3 of the Commission’s regulations (47 C.F.R. 9.3).

(57)

Internet access equipment

The term internet access equipment means equipment that is used to combine computer processing, information provision, and computer interactivity with data transport, enabling users to run a variety of applications, including email.

(58)

Internet access service

The term internet access service means a service that combines computer processing, information provision, and computer interactivity with data transport, enabling end users to access the Internet and use a variety of applications, including email.

.

102.

Hearing aid compatibility

(a)

Compatibility requirements

Section 710(b) of the Communications Act of 1934 (47 U.S.C. 610(b)) is amended—

(1)

in paragraph (1)—

(A)

by striking Except as and all that follows through require that and inserting Except as provided in paragraphs (2) and (3) of subsection (b) and subsection (c), the Commission shall require that the following customer premises equipment provide internal means for effective use with hearing aids that are designed to be compatible with telephones which meet established technical standards for hearing aid compatibility;

(B)

by striking and at the end of subparagraph (A);

(C)

by inserting and after the comma at the end of subparagraph (B); and

(D)

by inserting the following new subparagraph:

(C)

all customer premises equipment used with advanced communications services that is designed to provide 2-way voice communication via a built-in speaker intended to be held to the ear in a manner functionally equivalent to a telephone, subject to the regulations prescribed by the Commission under subsection (e)

;

(2)

in paragraph (2)—

(A)

in subparagraph (A)—

(i)

in the matter preceding clause (i)—

(I)

by striking initial;

(II)

by striking after the date of enactment of the Hearing Aid Compatibility Act of 1988,; and

(III)

by inserting and (1)(C) after paragraph (1)(B);

(ii)

by inserting and after the end of clause (ii);

(iii)

by striking clause (iii); and

(iv)

by redesignating clause (iv) as clause (iii);

(B)

by striking subparagraph (B) and redesignating subparagraph (C) as subparagraph (B); and

(C)

in subparagraph (B) (as so redesignated)—

(i)

by striking the first sentence and inserting The Commission shall periodically assess the appropriateness of continuing in effect the exemptions for telephones and other customer premises equipment described in subparagraph (A) of this paragraph.; and

(ii)

in each of clauses (iii) and (iv), by inserting or (1)(C) after (1)(B);

(3)

in paragraph (4)(B)—

(A)

by inserting telephones used with before public mobile services;

(B)

by inserting telephones and other customer premises equipment used in whole or in part with after means;

(C)

by striking and after public land mobile telephone service, and inserting or;

(D)

by striking part 22 of; and

(E)

by inserting after Regulations the following: , or any functionally equivalent unlicensed wireless services; and

(4)

in paragraph (4)(C)—

(A)

by inserting telephones used with before private radio services; and

(B)

by inserting telephones and other customer premises equipment used in whole or in part with after means.

(b)

Technical standards

Section 710(c) of the Communications Act of 1934 (47 U.S.C. 610(c)) is amended by adding at the end the following: A telephone or other customer premises equipment that is compliant with a relevant technical standard developed through a public participation process and in consultation with interested consumer stakeholders will be deemed hearing aid compatible for purposes of this section, until such time as the Commission may deem otherwise. The Commission shall consult with the public, including people with hearing loss, in establishing or approving such technical standards. The Commission may delegate this authority to an employee pursuant to section 5(c). The Commission shall designate the national consumer organizations for purposes of this section and shall remain the final arbiter as to whether the standard meets the requirements of this section..

(c)

Rulemaking

Section 710(e) of the Communications Act of 1934 (47 U.S.C. 610(e)) is amended—

(1)

by striking impairments and inserting loss; and

(2)

by adding at the end the following sentence: In implementing the provisions of subsection (b)(1)(C), the Commission shall use appropriate timetables or benchmarks to the extent necessary due to technical feasibility or to ensure the marketability or availability of new technologies to users..

(d)

Rule of construction

Section 710(h) of the Communications Act of 1934 (47 U.S.C. 610(h)) is amended to read as follows:

(h)

Rule of construction

Nothing in the Equal Access to 21st Century Communications Act shall be construed to modify the Commission’s regulations set forth in section 20.19 of title 47, Code of Federal Regulations, in effect as of the date of enactment of such Act.

.

103.

Relay services

(a)

Definition

Paragraph (3) of section 225(a) of the Communications Act of 1934 (47 U.S.C. 225(a)(3)) is amended to read as follows:

(3)

Telecommunications relay services

The term telecommunications relay services means telephone transmission that provides the ability for an individual who is deaf, hard of hearing, deaf-blind, or who has a speech disability to engage in communication by wire or radio with 1 or more individuals, in a manner that is functionally equivalent to the ability of a hearing individual who does not have a speech disability to communicate using voice communication services by wire or radio.

.

(b)

Internet protocol-Based relay services

Title VII of the Communications Act of 1934 is amended by adding at the end the following:

715.

Internet protocol-based relay services

Within 1 year after the date of enactment of the Equal Access to 21st Century Communications Act, each interconnected VoIP service provider shall participate in and contribute to the Telecommunications Relay Services Fund established in section 64.404(c)(5)(iii) of the Commission’s regulations (47 C.F.R. 64.404(c)(5)(iii)) as in effect on the date of enactment of such Act, in a manner prescribed by the Commission by regulation to provide for obligations of such providers that are consistent with and comparable to the obligations of other contributors to the Fund.

.

104.

Access to Internet-based services and equipment

(a)

Title VII amendment

Title VII of the Communications Act of 1934 (47 U.S.C. 601 et seq.) is amended by inserting after section 715 (as added by section 103) the following:

716.

Access to internet-based services and equipment

(a)

Manufacturing

With respect to equipment manufactured after the effective date of the regulations established pursuant to subsection (e), and subject to such regulations, a manufacturer of equipment used for advanced communications, including end user equipment, network equipment, and software, shall ensure that equipment and software that such manufacturer designs, develops, and fabricates shall be accessible to, and usable by individuals with disabilities, where the requirement of this subsection is achievable.

(b)

Service providers

With respect to services provided after the effective date of the regulations established pursuant to subsection (e), and subject to such regulations, a provider of advanced communications shall ensure that services offered by such provider are accessible to, and usable, by individuals with disabilities, where the requirement of this subsection is achievable.

(c)

Compatibility

If the requirements of subsections (a) and (b) are not achievable, a manufacturer or provider shall ensure that its equipment or service is compatible with existing peripheral devices or specialized customer premises equipment commonly used by individuals with disabilities to achieve access, where the requirement of this subsection is achievable.

(d)

Network features, functions, and capabilities

Each provider of advanced communications shall not install network features, functions, or capabilities that do not comply with the regulations established pursuant to this section.

(e)

Regulations

(1)

In general

Within 18 months after the date of enactment of the Equal Access to 21st Century Communications Act, the Commission shall prescribe such regulations as are necessary to implement this section.

(2)

Content of regulations

In prescribing the regulations required under paragraph (1), the Commission shall—

(A)

include standards to ensure the accessibility, usability, and compatibility of advanced communications and the equipment used for advanced communications by individuals with disabilities; and

(B)

provide that the advanced communications, equipment used for advanced communications, and advanced communications service networks used to provide such advanced communications may not impair or impede the accessibility of information content when accessibility has been incorporated into the content for transmission through advanced communications, equipment used for advanced communications, or advanced communications service networks.

(f)

Services and equipment subject to section 255

The requirements of this section shall not apply to any equipment or services, including interconnected VoIP service, that are subject to the requirements of section 255 on the date of enactment of the Equal Access to 21st Century Communications Act. Any such exempted services and equipment shall remain subject to the requirements of section 255.

(g)

Definition

For the purposes of this section, sections 717, 718, and 719, the term achievable means with reasonable effort or expense.

717.

Enforcement and reporting obligations

(a)

Complaint and enforcement procedures

(1)

In general

Within 18 months after the date of enactment of the Equal Access to 21st Century Communications Act, the Commission shall—

(A)

establish regulations that facilitate the filing of complaints that allege a violation of section 255, 716, 718, or 719;

(B)

establish formal and informal procedures for enforcement actions by the Commission with respect to such violations; and

(C)

implement the reporting obligations of paragraph (6) for manufacturers and providers subject to such sections.

(2)

Required provisions

The regulations required under paragraph (1) shall include the following provisions:

(A)

No fee

The Commission shall not charge a fee to an individual who files a complaint alleging a violation of section 255, 716, 718, or 719.

(B)

Receipt of complaints

The Commission shall establish separate and identifiable electronic, telephonic, and physical receptacles for the receipt of complaints filed under section 255, 716, 718, or 719.

(C)

Complaints to the commission

Any person alleging a violation of section 255, 716, 718, or 719 by a manufacturer of equipment or provider of service subject to such sections may file a complaint with the Commission. The Commission shall investigate the allegations in such complaint and issue a final order concluding the investigation within 180 days of the date on which such complaint is filed with the Commission, unless such complaint is resolved before such time. The Commission may consolidate for investigation and resolution such complaints alleging substantially the same violation by the same manufacturer or provider. Such final order shall include a determination as to whether any violation has occurred and, if the Commission determines that a violation has occurred, address the manner in which the manufacturer or service provider will achieve accessibility, compatibility, or usability required by section 255, 716, 718, or 719. If a determination is made that a violation has not occurred, the Commission shall provide the basis for such determination, including the basis for determining that an accessibility feature requested is not readily achievable under section 255 or is achievable under section 716, 718, or 719.

(D)

Opportunity to respond

Before the Commission makes a determination pursuant to subparagraph (C), the party that is the subject of the complaint shall have the opportunity to respond to such complaint, and may include in such response any factors that it deems relevant to such determination and any available alternatives that might constitute an effective substitute for the equipment or service that is the subject of such complaint.

(E)

Cease and desist orders

If the Commission’s investigation pursuant to subparagraph (C) determines that a manufacturer of equipment or provider of service is engaged in an act prohibited by section 255, 716, 718, or 719, or is failing to perform any act required by section 255, 716, 718, or 719, the Commission shall have the authority to order such manufacturer or provider to cease from violating such section.

(F)

Reporting

Each manufacturer of equipment used for advanced communications and each provider of advanced communications shall—

(i)

file a report with the Commission, on an annual basis, that describes the steps that have been taken by such manufacturer or provider during the preceding year to implement sections 255 and 716, including—

(I)

information about the manufacturer’s or provider’s efforts to consult with people with disabilities;

(II)

descriptions of the accessibility features of its products and services; and

(III)

information about the compatibility of their products and services with peripheral devices or specialized customer premise equipment commonly used by people with disabilities to achieve access; and

(ii)

maintain, in the ordinary course of business, records of the efforts taken by such manufacturer or provider to implement sections 255 and 716.

(G)

Failure to act

If the Commission fails to carry out any of its responsibilities to act upon a complaint in the manner prescribed in subparagraph (C), the person that filed such complaint may bring an action in the nature of mandamus in an appropriate Federal district court to compel the Commission to carry out any such responsibility.

(H)

Commission jurisdiction

The limitations of section 255(f) shall apply to any claim that alleges a violation of section 255, 716, 718, or 719. Nothing in this paragraph affects or limits any action for mandamus under subparagraph (G) or any appeal pursuant to section 402(b)(10).

(I)

Private resolutions of complaints

Nothing in the Commission’s rules or this Act shall be construed to preclude a person who files a complaint and a manufacturer or provider from resolving a formal or informal complaint prior to the Commission’s final determination in a complaint proceeding. In the event of such a resolution, the parties shall jointly request dismissal of the complaint and the Commission shall grant such request.

(b)

Reports to Congress

(1)

In general

Not later than 2 years after the date of enactment of the Equal Access to 21st Century Communications Act, and every 2 years thereafter, the Commission shall submit a report to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation of the Senate and the Committee on Energy and Commerce of the House of Representatives that assesses the level of compliance with section 255 or 716 and evaluates the extent to which any accessibility barriers still exist with respect to new technologies.

(2)

Public comment

The Commission shall seek public comment on the tentative findings of the report required under paragraph (1) prior to the submission of such report to the Committees described in paragraph (1).

(3)

Required content

The report required under paragraph (1) shall include the following:

(A)

The number and nature of complaints received pursuant to subsection (a) during the 2 years that are the subject of the report.

(B)

Actions taken to resolve such complaints under this section, including cease and desist orders issued and forfeiture penalties assessed.

(C)

The length of time that was taken by the Commission to resolve each such complaint.

(D)

The number, status, nature, and outcome of any actions of mandamus filed pursuant to subsection (a)(2)(G) and the number, status, and outcome of any appeals filed pursuant to section 402(b)(10).

(c)

Comptroller general enforcement study

(1)

In general

The Comptroller General shall conduct a study to consider and evaluate—

(A)

the Commission’s compliance with the requirements of the Equal Access to 21st Century Communications Act, including the Commission’s level of compliance with deadlines (including deadlines for acting on complaints) established in such Act;

(B)

whether the enforcement actions taken by the Commission pursuant to such Act have been appropriate and effective in ensuring compliance with such requirements; and

(C)

whether the enforcement provisions established in such Act are adequate to ensure compliance with such requirements.

(2)

Report

Not later than 5 years after the date of enactment of the Equal Access to 21st Century Communications Act, the Comptroller General shall submit a report to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation of the Senate and the Committee on Energy and Commerce of the House of Representatives on the results of the study required by paragraph (1), with the recommendations for how the enforcement process and measures with respect to such Act may be modified or improved.

(d)

Clearinghouse

Within 18 months after the date of enactment of the Equal Access to 21st Century Communications Act, the Commission shall, in consultation with the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, trade associations, and organizations representing people with disabilities, establish a clearinghouse of information on the availability of accessible products and services and accessibility solutions required under sections 255 and 716. Such information shall be made publicly available on the Commission’s website and by other means, and shall include an annually updated list of products and services with access features or solutions.

(e)

Outreach and education

Upon establishment of the clearinghouse of the information required under section 717(d), the Commission, in coordination with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, shall conduct an informational and educational program designed to inform the public about the availability of the clearinghouse, and the protections and remedies available under sections 255 and 716.

.

(b)

Title V amendments

Section 503(b)(2) of the Communications Act of 1934 (47 U.S.C. 503(b)(2)) (47 U.S.C. 503(b)(2)) is amended—

(1)

by redesignating subparagraphs (C), (D), and (E) as subparagraphs (D), (E), and (F), respectively;

(2)

by inserting after subparagraph (B) the following:

(C)

If the violator is a manufacturer of telecommunications equipment, a manufacturer of equipment used for advanced communications, or a provider of advanced communications, who is subject to the requirements of section 255, 716, 718, or 719, and who is determined by the Commission to have violated any such requirement, the manufacturer of telecommunications equipment, the manufacturer of equipment used for advanced communications, or the provider of advanced communications shall be liable to the United States for a forfeiture penalty. The amount of any penalty determined under this subparagraph shall not exceed $100,000 for each violation of each day of a continuing violation, except that the amount assessed for any continuing violation shall not exceed a total of $1,000,000 for any single act or failure to act.

; and

(3)

in subparagraph (D) (as so redesignated) by striking subparagraph (A) or (B) and inserting subparagraph (A), (B), or (C).

(c)

Review of commission determinations

Section 402(b) of the Communications Act of 1934 (47 U.S.C. 402(b)) is amended by adding at the end the following:

(10)

By any person who is aggrieved or whose interests are adversely affected by a determination made by the Commission under section 717(a)(3).

.

105.

Universal service

(a)

Consumers with disabilities

Section 254(c) of the Communications Act of 1934 (47 U.S.C. 254(c)) is amended by adding at the end the following:

(4)

Individuals with disabilities

Notwithstanding subsection (j), the Commission shall authorize Lifeline and Link-Up assistance programs and other Federal universal service support mechanisms to be used for those telecommunications services, Internet access services, and advanced communications that are needed by individuals with disabilities, who are otherwise qualified for such programs or mechanisms, to engage in communication with 1 or more other individuals in a manner that is functionally equivalent to the ability of individuals without disabilities to engage in such communication.

.

(b)

Allocation of USF for services for individuals with disabilities

Section 254 of the Communications Act of 1934 (47 U.S.C. 254) is further amended—

(1)

by redesignating subsections (i) through (l) as subsections (j) through (m), respectively; and

(2)

by inserting after subsection (h) the following:

(i)

Individuals who are deaf-Blind

(1)

In general

Within 6 months after the date of enactment of the Equal Access to 21st Century Communications Act, the Commission shall establish rules that define as eligible for universal service support those programs that are certified by a State commission or approved by the Commission for the distribution of specialized customer premises equipment designed to make telecommunications service, Internet access service, and advanced communications, including interexchange services and advanced telecommunications and information services, accessible by individuals who are deaf-blind.

(2)

Definition

For purposes of this subsection, the term individuals who are deaf-blind has the same meaning given such term in the Helen Keller National Center Act, as amended by the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1992 (29 U.S.C. 1905(2)).

(3)

Annual amount

The total amount of universal service support that may be obligated or expanded under this subsection for any fiscal year may not exceed $10,000,000.

.

106.

Emergency access and real-time text support

Title VII of the Communications Act of 1934 (47 U.S.C. 601 et seq.) is further amended by adding after section 717 (as added by section 104) the following:

718.

Emergency access and real-time text advisory committee

(a)

Establishment

For the purpose of achieving equal access to emergency services by individuals with disabilities, as part of the migration to a national Internet protocol-enabled emergency network, not later than 120 days after the date of enactment of the Equal Access to 21st Century Communications Act, the Chairman shall establish an advisory committee, to be known as the Emergency Access and Real-Time Text Advisory Committee (referred to in this section as the Advisory Committee).

(b)

Membership

As soon as practicable after the date of enactment of the Equal Access to 21st Century Communications Act, the Chairman of the Commission shall appoint the members of the Advisory Committee, ensuring an equal balance between potential real-time text consumers and other stakeholders, and designate 2 such members as the co-chairs of the Committee. Members of the Advisory Committee shall be selected from the following groups:

(1)

State and local government and emergency responder representatives

Representatives of State and local governments and representatives of emergency response providers, selected from among individuals nominated by national organizations representing such governments and personnel.

(2)

Subject matter experts

Individuals who have the requisite technical knowledge and expertise to serve on the Advisory Committee in the fulfillment of its duties, including representatives of—

(A)

providers of interconnected VoIP services;

(B)

vendors, developers, and manufacturers of systems, facilities, equipment, and capabilities for the provision of interconnected VoIP services;

(C)

national organizations representing people with disabilities and senior citizens;

(D)

Federal agencies or departments responsible for the implementation of the Next Generation E 9–1–1 system;

(E)

the National Institute of Standards and Technology; and

(F)

other individuals with relevant technical expertise.

(3)

Qualified representatives of other stakeholders and interested parties

Qualified representatives of such other stakeholders and interested and affected parties as the Chairman of the Commission determines appropriate.

(c)

Development of recommendations

Within 12 months after the completion of the member appointment process by the Chairman of the Commission pursuant to subsection (b), the Advisory Committee shall develop and submit to the Commission recommendations—

(1)

with respect to the definition of real-time text;

(2)

with respect to what actions are necessary as a part of the migration to a national Internet protocol-enabled network to achieve reliable, interoperable real-time text communication transmitted over such network that will ensure access to emergency services by people with disabilities;

(3)

for protocols, technical capabilities, and technical requirements to ensure reliable, interoperable real-time text communications necessary to ensure access to emergency services by people with disabilities;

(4)

for the establishment of technical standards for use by public safety answering points, designated default answering points and local emergency authorities;

(5)

for relevant technical standards and requirements for communication devices and equipment and technologies to enable to the use of reliable, interoperable real-time text communications;

(6)

for procedures to be followed by IP-enabled network providers to ensure that such providers do not install features, functions, or capabilities that would conflict with technical standards; and

(7)

for deadlines by which providers of interconnected VoIP services and manufacturers of equipment used for such services shall achieve the actions required in paragraphs (1) through (6), and for the possible phase out of the use of current-generation TTY technology to the extent that this technology is replaced with real-time text.

(d)

Meetings

(1)

Initial meeting

The initial meeting of the Advisory Committee shall take place not later than 90 days after the completion of the member appointment process by the Chairman of the Commission pursuant to subsection (b).

(2)

Other meetings

After the initial meeting, the Advisory Committee shall meet at the call of the chairs, but no less than monthly until the recommendations required pursuant to subsection (c) are completed and submitted.

(3)

Notice; open meetings

Any meetings held by the Advisory Committee shall be duly noticed at least 14 days in advance and shall be open to the public.

(e)

Rules

(1)

Quorum

One-third of the members of the Advisory Committee shall constitute a quorum for conducting business of the Advisory Committee.

(2)

Subcommittees

To assist the Advisory Committee in carrying out its functions, the Chair may establish appropriate subcommittees composed of members of the Advisory Committee and other subject matter experts as deemed necessary.

(3)

Additional rules

The advisory committee may adopt other rules as needed.

(f)

Federal advisory committee Act

Neither the Federal Advisory Committee Act (5 U.S.C. App.) nor any rule, order, or regulation promulgated under that Act shall apply to the Advisory Committee.

(g)

Implementing recommendations

The Commission shall have the authority to promulgate regulations to implement the recommendations proposed by the Advisory Committee, as well as any other regulations, technical standards, protocols, and procedures as are necessary to achieve reliable, interoperable real-time text communication that ensures access by people with disabilities to an Internet protocol-enabled emergency network.

.

107.

Internet access service interface

Title VII of the Communications Act of 1934 (47 U.S.C. 601 et seq.) is further amended by adding after section 718 (as added by section 106) the following:

719.

Internet access service user interface

Every provider of Internet access service and every manufacturer of Internet access equipment shall, where achievable, make user interfaces for such service and equipment accessible to individuals with disabilities, including those interfaces used to initiate, monitor, and control such service.

.

II

Video descriptions and closed captioning

201.

Commission inquiry on closed captioning decoder and video description capability, user interfaces, and video programming guides and menus

(a)

Inquiry required

The Federal Communications Commission shall conduct an inquiry on the following subjects:

(1)

Closed-captioning decoder and video description capability

With respect to closed captioning decoder and video description capability, the Federal Communications Commission shall—

(A)

describe—

(i)

the formats and software commonly used by video programming providers or owners for exhibition on new technologies, including those using the Internet protocol (or successor protocol) and digital wireless services; and

(ii)

the related technical issues associated with the implementation of closed captioning and video description by means of new technologies;

(B)

describe the technical standards, protocols, and procedures needed for the transmission of closed captioning and video description by means of services using the Internet protocol (or a successor protocol) and digital wireless services and equipment; and

(C)

describe—

(i)

technical standards, protocols, and procedures needed to enable video programming providers and owners to transmit emergency information in a manner that is accessible to individuals who are blind or visually impaired; and

(ii)

the persons or parties obligated to create, receive, and transmit such emergency information in accordance with such standards, protocols, and procedures.

(2)

User interfaces

With respect to user interfaces, the Federal Communications Commission shall—

(A)

describe the technical standards, protocols, and procedures needed to enable apparatus designed to receive or display video programming transmitted simultaneously with sound (including apparatus designed to receive or display video programming transmitted by means of services using the Internet protocol (or a successor protocol) to be capable of making the apparatus functions, necessary for the receipt, display, navigation, or selection of video programming (and any other functions shared by, related to, or necessary to access such apparatus functions), accessible to and useable by individuals with disabilities; and

(B)

describe the technical standards, protocols, and procedures needed to enable onscreen text menus and other visual indicators used to access the functions described in subparagraph (A) to be accompanied by audio output so that such menus or indicators are accessible to and usable by individuals who are blind or visually impaired.

(3)

Video programming guides and menus

With respect to video programming guides and menus, the Federal Communications Commission shall describe the technical standards, protocols, and procedures needed to enable video programming information and selection provided by means of a navigational device, guide, or menu to be accessible in real-time by individuals with disabilities who are unable to read the visual display.

(b)

Report on inquiry

Within 18 months after the date of enactment of this Act, the Federal Communications Commission shall submit to the Congress a report on the results of such inquiry.

(c)

Definitions

For the purposes of this section, the terms video description and video programming have the meanings provided by section 713(g) of the Communications Act of 1934 (47 U.S.C. 613(g)).

202.

Commission inquiry on the definition of consumer generated media

Not later than 120 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Federal Communications Commission shall develop through an inquiry an appropriate definition of consumer generated media.

203.

Closed captioning decoder and video description capability

(a)

Authority To regulate

Section 303(u) of the Communications Act of 1934 (47 U.S.C. 303(u)) is amended to read as follows:

(u)

Require that apparatus designed to receive or play back video programming (as such term is defined in section 713(g)) transmitted simultaneously with sound, when such apparatus is manufactured in the United States or imported for use in the United States and uses a picture screen that is 13 inches or greater in size—

(1)

be equipped with built-in closed-caption decoder circuitry or capability designed to display closed-captioned video programming;

(2)

have the capability to make available the transmission and delivery of video description services as required by section 713(f); and

(3)

have the capability to convey emergency information (as that term is defined in section 79.2 of the Commission’s regulations (47 C.F.R. 73.2)) in a manner that is accessible to individuals who are blind or visually impaired.

.

(b)

Other devices

Section 303 of the Communications Act of 1934 (47 U.S.C. 303) is further amended—

(1)

by redesignating subsections (v) through (y) as subsections (y) through (bb), respectively; and

(2)

by inserting after subsection (u) the following:

(v)

Require, after inquiry, that apparatus designed to receive or play back video programming (as such term is defined in section 713(g)) transmitted simultaneously with sound, when such apparatus is manufactured in the United States or imported for use in the United States and uses a picture screen that is less than 13 inches in size—

(1)

be equipped with built-in closed-caption decoder circuitry or capability designed to display closed-captioned video programming;

(2)

have the capability to make available the transmission and delivery of video description services as required by section 713(f); and

(3)

have the capability to convey emergency information (as that term is defined in section 79.2 of the Commission’s regulations (47 C.F.R. 79.2)), in a manner that is accessible to individuals who are blind or visually impaired.

(w)

Require, after inquiry, that apparatus manufactured in the United States or imported for use in the United States that is designed to record video programming (as such term is defined in section 713(g)) transmitted simultaneously with sound, retain and permit the pass through of closed captions and video description signals such that viewers will be able to activate and deactivate the closed captions and video description when the video programming is played back on a picture screen of any size. Interconnection mechanisms and standards for digital video source devices must be able to carry program related accessibility data for people with disabilities from the source device to the consumer equipment so that the consumer is able to display closed captions and make encoded video description audible.

(x)

Exempt from requirements of subsections (u) and (v) any apparatus or class of apparatus that are display-only video monitors, with no playback capability and shall have the authority to waive the requirements of such subsections for any apparatus or class of apparatus.

.

(c)

Shipment in commerce

Section 330(b) of the Communications Act of 1934 (47 U.S.C. 330(b)) is amended—

(1)

by striking section 303(u) and inserting subsections (u), (v), and (w) of section 303;

(2)

by striking the second sentence and inserting the following: Such rules shall provide performance and display standards for such built-in decoder circuitry or capability designed to display closed-captioned video programming, the transmission and delivery of video description services and the conveyance of emergency information as required by section 303 of this Act.; and

(3)

in the fourth sentence, by inserting and video description service after closed-captioning service.

(d)

Implementing regulations

The Federal Communications Commission shall prescribe such regulations as are necessary to implement the requirements of this section, including any technical standards, protocols, and procedures needed for the transmission of closed captioning, video description, and emergency information, within 18 months after the submission of the report to Congress required by section 201(b) of this Act.

204.

Video description and closed captioning

(a)

Video description

Section 713 of the Communications Act of 1934 (47 U.S.C. 613) is amended by striking subsections (f) and (g) and inserting the following:

(f)

Video description

(1)

Reinstatement of the rules

The video description regulations of the Commission contained in the report and order identified as Implementation of Video Description of Video Programming, Report and Order (15 F.C.C.R. 15230) (July 21, 2000), when such rules are republished and refreshed pursuant to paragraph (2), shall—

(A)

be considered to be in full force and effect and ratified by law; and

(B)

apply to video programming that is first published or exhibited after the date of enactment of the Equal Access to 21st Century Communications Act.

(2)

Continuing authority of the commission

The Commission shall—

(A)

within 90 days after the date of enactment of the Equal Access to 21st Century Communications Act

(i)

publish and refresh its video description regulations contained in the report and order identified as Implementation of Video Description of Video Programming, Report and Order (15 F.C.C.R. 15230) (July 21, 2000) in a manner that provides the same or an improved level of video description service; and

(ii)

apply the requirements of such report and order to owners of and providers of video programming;

(B)

initiate a proceeding, to be completed within 18 months after the submission of the report to Congress required by section 201(b) of the Equal Access to 21st Century Communications Act

(i)

identify methods to convey emergency information (as that term is defined in section 79.2 of the Commission’s regulations (47 C.F.R. 79.2)) in a manner accessible to individuals who are blind or visually impaired; and

(ii)

promulgate regulations that require video programming providers and video programming distributors (as those terms are defined in section 79.1 of the Commission’s regulations (47 C.F.R. 79.1)) and owners of video programming to convey such emergency information in a manner accessible to individuals who are blind or visually impaired, consistent with the requirements of such section of such regulations; and

(C)

promulgate any other regulation that the Commission may find necessary to implement, enforce, or otherwise carry out the provisions of this section, including regulations to increase the amount of video description required to achieve full access to video programming for individuals who are blind or visually impaired.

(3)

Requirements for rules

(A)

The regulations described in paragraph (1) and republished and refreshed, or otherwise increased or enhanced, pursuant to subparagraph (A) or (C) of paragraph (2) shall include an appropriate schedule of deadlines for the provision of video description of video programming.

(B)

Such regulations may permit a provider of video programming or program owner to petition the Commission for an exemption from the requirements of this section upon a showing that the requirements contained in this section are not achievable. A provider shall be exempt from such requirements only after the Commission decides to grant any such petition.

(C)

The Commission may exempt from the regulations established pursuant to paragraph (2)(C) services, classes of services, programs, classes of programs, equipment, or classes of equipment for which the Commission has determined that the application of such regulations would be economically burdensome to the providers of such services.

(g)

Definitions

For purposes of this section:

(1)

Video description

The term video description means the insertion of audio narrated descriptions of the video programming’s key visual elements in natural pauses between the program’s dialogue.

(2)

Video programming

The term video programming means programming provided by, or generally considered comparable to programming provided by, a television broadcast station, even if such programming is distributed over the Internet or by some other means.

.

(b)

Closed captioning on video programming distributed over the internet

Section 713 of the Communication Act of 1934 (47 U.S.C. 613) is further amended by striking subsection (c) and inserting the following:

(c)

Deadlines for captioning

(1)

In general

The regulations prescribed pursuant to subsection (b) shall include an appropriate schedule of deadlines for the provision of closed captioning of video programming.

(2)

Deadlines for internet-distributed programming

(A)

Within 18 months after the submission of the report to Congress required by section 201(b) of the Equal Access to 21st Century Communications Act, the Commission shall prescribe regulations that include an appropriate schedule of deadlines for the provision of closed captioning of video programming distributed to the public over the Internet.

(B)

Consistent with the regulations promulgated under subsection (b), the regulations prescribed under this paragraph shall ensure the accessibility of video programming, except for consumer generated media (as such term is to be defined by the Commission), through the provision of captions on—

(i)

preproduced video programming that was previously captioned for television viewing;

(ii)

live video programming; and

(iii)

video programming first published or exhibited after the effective date of such regulations provided by or generally considered to be comparable to programming provided by multichannel programming distributors.

.

(c)

Conforming amendment

Section 713(d) of the Communications Act of 1934 (47 U.S.C. 613(d)) is amended by striking paragraph (3) and inserting the following:

(3)

a provider of video programming or program owner may petition the Commission for an exemption from the requirements of this section and—

(A)

the Commission may grant such petition upon showing that the requirements contained in this section would result in an undue burden; and

(B)

such exemptions shall be effective only after the Commission grants such petition.

.

205.

User interface regulations

(a)

Amendment

Section 303 of the Communications Act of 1934 (47 U.S.C. 303) is further amended by adding at the end of the following new subsection:

(cc)
(1)

Require, after inquiry—

(A)

that apparatus designed to receive or play back video programming transmitted simultaneously with sound, including apparatus designed to receive or display video programming transmitted by means of services using the Internet protocol (or a successor protocol), be designed, developed, or fabricated so that control of all apparatus functions enabling the receipt, display, navigation, or selection of video programming (and any other functions shared by, related to, or necessary to access such apparatus functions), are accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities;

(B)

that where on-screen text menus or other visual indicators are used to access the functions described in subparagraph (A), such functions be accompanied by audio output that is either integrated or peripheral to the apparatus, so that such menus or indicators are accessible to and usable by individuals who are blind or visually impaired in real-time; and

(C)

that user controls needed to access closed captioning and video description, including—

(i)

a button, key, or icon on the remote control of such apparatus (where a remote control is provided with the apparatus) designated for activating the closed captioning function; and

(ii)

the inclusion of closed-captions and video description on the first menu that appears when on-screen menus are displayed on such apparatus.

(2)

For purposes of this subsection, the terms video description and video programming have the meanings given such terms in section 713(g).

.

(b)

Implementing regulations

Within 18 months after the submission of the report to Congress required by section 201(b) of this Act, the Federal Communications Commission shall prescribe such regulations as are necessary to implement the amendments made by subsection (a).

206.

Access to video programming guides and menus

(a)

Amendment

Section 303 of the Communications Act of 1934 (47 U.S.C. 303) is further amended by adding after subsection (cc), as added by section 205, the following:

(dd)

Require each provider or owner of video programming (as such term is defined in section 713(g)), with the exception of consumer generated media (as such term is to be defined by the Commission) and each multichannel programming distributor to ensure that video programming information and selection provided by means of a navigational device, guide, or menu is accessible in real-time by individuals with disabilities who are unable to read the visual display.

.

(b)

Implementing regulations

Within 18 months after the submission of the report to Congress required by section 201(b), the Federal Communications Commission shall prescribe such regulations as are necessary to implement the amendments made by subsection (a).