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EAS, CC exemption, ADA recognition by FCC, VoIP Legislation

To: Consumer Contact List
From: Karen Peltz Strauss, RERC-TA
Re: Consumer Contact List - EAS; CC exemption denied, ADA recognition by FCC, VoIP Legislation
Date: August 9, 2004

1. EAS Rules - The FCC has issued a new notice of proposed rulemaking on rules covering our nation's emergency alert system. As of now I do not have information about the extent to which this new docket discusses disability issues. However, the existing EAS rules do cover disability matters, and it is likely that these proposals will have some impact on the disability community.

COMMISSION SEEKS COMMENT ON RULE CHANGES FOR THE EMERGENCY ALERT SYSTEM. The FCC issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking concerning the EAS, seeking comment on how EAS can be improved to be a more effective mechanism for warning the American public of an emergency. News Release. (Dkt No 04-296). Adopted: 08/04/2004.
News Media Contact: Suzanne Tetreault at (202) 418-7450 EB.
Contact Suzanne Tetreault at (202) 418-7450 and James Dailey at (202) 418-1199

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2. Petition for Exemption from Closed Captioning Rules - The FCC has denied a recent petition for a closed captioning exemption as follows:

THE PAUL GAUDINO FAMILY FITNESS SHOW/VIDEO PROGRAMMING ACCESSIBILITY PETITION FOR WAIVER OF CLOSED CAPTIONING REQUIREMENTS. Denied the petition for exemption from the closed captioning requirements of Section 79.1 of the Commission's rules. Action by: Deputy Chief, Policy Division, Media Bureau. Adopted: 07/30/2004 by MO&O. (DA No. 04-2443).MB <http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DA-04-2443A1.doc>
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3. ADA Recognition - The FCC acknowledged the 14th anniversary of the ADA.

FCC RECOGNIZES THE 14TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT. News Release CGB. Contact Rosemary Kimball at (202) 418-0511,TTY: (202) 418-0464, email: Rosemary.Kimball@fcc.gov
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4. VOIP Legislation - In my last update, I wrote about the new VoIP legislation. Below is another, more detailed summary of what has occurred in Congress, prepared by the Alliance for Public Technology.

Senate Commerce Committee Approves VoIP Bill with Amendments

The "VoIP Regulatory Freedom Act of 2004," introduced by Senator John Sununu, was marked up by the Senate Commerce Committee on July 22nd. Before the markup, this bill would have dealt a serious blow to consumer protection and accessibility in the IP-enabled era, severely restricting any type of regulation from being imposed. VoIP providers would not have been required to contribute directly to the universal service fund, which provides access to telephone service for residents in rural high-cost areas and low income consumers, and is the funding mechanism for the E-rate. VoIP providers would also not have had to pay access charges for the maintenance of the public switched network, the backbone of this country's communications system including for most Internet calls. In addition, the provision of 911 and enhanced 911 services, reliability and security would not have been required under this bill.

Senator Byron Dorgan introduced an amendment to the bill that would preserve state universal service programs and interstate access charges, reversing much of Senator Sununu's intentions. In addition, Senators Conrad Burns and Ben Nelson offered an amendment allowing states to require 911 and E-911 services. The Committee approved the bill with these changes, restricting states from implementing new regulations on this emerging technology, but preserving some traditional social obligations.

Some important issues such as disability access were not addressed by the Committee, however. Standards of accessibility by customers with disabilities would still be voluntary for VoIP providers under the approved bill. Important provisions such as Telecommunications Relay Services would be optional. Consumer groups are urged to contact the Senate this fall to stop legislation from being passed without the inclusion of this public interest obligation.

APT has joined with a broad coalition of interests to protect basic consumer obligations for VoIP service. For more information about the VoIP issue, consumer comments, legislative and regulatory developments, and coalition opportunities, visit http://www.apt.org/voip/.


This page last updated:August 9, 2004

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