FCC NewsBytes 11/28

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REMINDER OF VIDEO PROGRAMMING DISTRIBUTORS’ OBLIGATIONS TO MAKE TELEVISED EMERGENCY INFORMATION ACCESSIBLE FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES; COMPLIANCE DEADLINE ANNOUNCED FOR NEW PROVISIONS

By this Notice, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC or Commission) announces that, beginning on November 30, 2015, in accordance with section 79.2(b)(2)(ii) of the Commission’s rules,[1] video programming distributors (VPDs)[2] must ensure that their televised emergency information is conveyed aurally through the use of a secondary audio stream,[3] when such information is conveyed visually during programming other than newscasts.

Section 202 of the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (CVAA) directed the Commission to promulgate rules requiring video programming providers, video programming distributors, and program owners to convey emergency information in a manner accessible to individuals who are blind or visually impaired.[4] On April 9, 2013, the Commission released the Accessible Emergency Information Order implementing this mandate.[5]

Specifically, when emergency information[6] is being provided in the video portion of programming that is not a regularly scheduled newscast or a newscast that interrupts regular programming (e.g., the programmer provides the emergency information through “crawling” or “scrolling” text during regular programming), the information must be accompanied by an aural tone and provided aurally on the secondary audio stream.[7]  The aural tone will alert consumers who are blind or visually impaired to the presence of an emergency situation, and give them an opportunity to switch to the secondary audio stream.[8] The information imparted over the secondary audio channel must be preceded by the aural tone, and must be conveyed in full at least twice.[9] VPDs must also ensure that that their video programming apparatus be capable of delivering such emergency information in an accessible manner to individuals who are blind or visually impaired.[10]

In addition, on May 28, 2015, the Commission released a Report and Order requiring multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs) to pass through the secondary audio stream containing audible emergency information when it is provided on linear programming accessed on second screen devices (e.g., tablets, smartphones, laptops and similar devices) over the MVPD’s network as part of their MVPD services.[11]  Linear programming is generally video programming that is prescheduled by the video programming provider. This requirement must be implemented no later than July 10, 2017.[12]  In this order, the Commission also required apparatus manufacturers to provide a mechanism that is simple and easy to use, such as one that is reasonably comparable to a button, key, or icon, for activating the secondary audio stream to access audible emergency information by December 20, 2016.[13]

We also remind VPDs of their existing obligation to ensure that emergency information be provided in a manner that is accessible to persons who are deaf or hard of hearing. Commission rules require that emergency information provided in the audio portion of the programming be made accessible using closed captioning or other methods of visual presentation, including open captioning, crawls or scrolls that appear on the screen.[14] Emergency information provided by these means may not block any closed captioning, and closed captioning may not block any emergency information provided by crawls, scrolls, or other visual means.[15] The “pass through” obligation, generally requiring VPDs to ensure that viewers receive closed captions intact under section 79.1,[16] also applies to emergency information encompassed by section 79.2.[17]

As we have previously noted,[18] the need to comply with section 79.2 is not always limited to the immediate geographic areas affected by the emergency because critical details about the emergency and how to respond – for example, relocation information – may need to reach individuals outside that immediate geographic area, and, therefore, fall within the rule’s mandate.[19] Accordingly, compliance with section 79.2 may include providing information to areas outlying an area immediately impacted by a large-scale disaster, such as that which occurred in February 2014, when a severe winter storm in the Midwest and eastern parts of the United States caused electrical outages for nearly 1 million customers across a wide region. In addition, we note that there are times when the airing of emergency information pertaining to a matter of national importance will also be of local concern, and, therefore, should be made accessible.  Various emergencies over the past year, ranging from the January 2015 North American blizzard (unofficially known as “Winter Storm Juno”), the October 2015 North American Storm Complex, the July 2015 Alaskan earthquakes, wildfires in the western states, and a spate of destructive tornadoes in the Midwest underscore the vital nature of compliance with this rule.

Fact sheets summarizing the closed captioning and access to emergency information rules are available at the FCC’s Web site at http://www.fcc.gov/guides/closed-captioning, and http://www.fcc.gov/guides/emergency-video-programming-accessibility-persons-hearing-and-visual-disabilities.

To request this Public Notice or any other materials in accessible formats for people with disabilities (Braille, large print, electronic files, audio format), send an e-mail to fcc504@fcc.gov or call the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau at 202-418-0530 (voice) or 202-418-0432 (TTY).

Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau Contact:  Eliot Greenwald, 202-418-2235, e-mail eliot.greenwald@fcc.gov.

-FCC-

[1] 47 C.F.R. § 79.2(b)(2)(ii). See Accessible Emergency Information, and Apparatus Requirements for Emergency Information and Video Description: Implementation of the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010; Video Description: Implementation of the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010, MB Docket Nos. 12-107 & 11-43, Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, 28 FCC Rcd 4871 (2013) (Accessible Emergency Information Order). Compliance with the Commission’s new rules was required beginning on May 26, 2015. 47 C.F.R. §§ 79.2(b)(2)(ii), 79.105(a), 79.106(a). However, on May 26, 2015, the Commission’s Media Bureau granted waivers of the emergency information rule: (1) for certain hybrid (digital/analog) cable systems, conditioned on providing free equipment to analog customers who are blind or visually impaired to enable access to the digital secondary audio stream; (2) for certain analog-only cable systems until June 12, 2018; (3) for broadcasters until November 30, 2015; (4) for visual but non-textual emergency information, such as maps or other graphic displays, for a period of 18 months; and (5) for school closing information, while the Commission reconsiders this requirement.   See Accessible Emergency Information, and Apparatus Requirements for Emergency Information and Video Description: Implementation of the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010; Video Description: Implementation of the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010, MB Docket Nos. 12-107 & 11-43, Memorandum Opinion and Order, 30 FCC Rcd 5012 ¶ 1, 5021 ¶ 16 (MB 2015).

[2] See 47 C.F.R. § 79.1(a)(11) (defining “video programming distributor”).

[3] A secondary audio stream is an audio channel, other than the main program audio channel, that is typically used for foreign language audio and video description. Video description, which is also referred to as audio description, is defined as “[t]he insertion of audio narrated descriptions of a television program’s key visual elements into natural pauses between the program’s dialogue.” 47 C.F.R. § 79.3(a)(3).

[4] Pub. L. No. 111-260, 124 Stat. 2751 (2010) (as codified in various sections of 47 U.S.C.). See also Amendment of Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010, Pub. L. No. 111-265, 124 Stat. 2795 (2010) (making technical corrections to the CVAA).

[5] Accessible Emergency Information Order, 28 FCC Rcd at 4872 ¶ 1; see also 47 U.S.C. § 613(g)(2).

[6] The CVAA directed the Commission to apply the definition of “emergency information” found in the Commission’s rules. 47 U.S.C. § 613(g)(1). “Emergency information” is defined in these rules as “[i]nformation, about a current emergency, that is intended to further the protection of life, health, safety, and property, i.e., critical details regarding the emergency and how to respond to the emergency. Examples of the types of emergencies covered include tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, tidal waves, earthquakes, icing conditions, heavy snows, widespread fires, discharge of toxic gases, widespread power failures, industrial explosions, civil disorders, school closings and changes in school bus schedules resulting from such conditions, and warnings and watches of impending changes in weather.” 47 C.F.R. § 79.2(a)(2). “Critical details include, but are not limited to, specific details regarding the areas that will be affected by the emergency, evacuation orders, detailed descriptions of areas to be evacuated, specific evacuation routes, approved shelters or the way to take shelter in one’s home, instructions on how to secure personal property, road closures, and how to obtain relief assistance.” Note to 47 C.F.R. § 79.2(a)(2).

[7] See 47 C.F.R. § 79.2(b)(2)(ii).

[8] Accessible Emergency Information Order, 28 FCC Rcd at 4881 ¶ 12, 4892 ¶ 25.

[9] 47 C.F.R. § 79.2(b)(2)(ii); Accessible Emergency Information Order, 28 FCC Rcd at 4881 ¶ 12.

[10] Accessible Emergency Information Order, 28 FCC Rcd at 4913-16 ¶¶ 60-62. See also 47 U.S.C. § 303(u); 47 C.F.R. §§ 79.105, 79.106.

[11] See Accessible Emergency Information, and Apparatus Requirements for Emergency Information and Video Description:  Implementation of the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010, MB Docket No. 12-107, Second Report and Order and Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, 30 FCC Rcd 5186, 5191-95 ¶¶ 9-15 (2015) (Accessible Emergency Information Second Report and Order); see also 47 C.F.R. § 79.2(b)(6).

[12] 47 C.F.R. § 79.2(b)(6); Accessible Emergency Information Second Report and Order, 30 FCC Rcd at 5197-98 ¶¶ 19-21.

[13] Accessible Emergency Information Second Report and Order, 30 FCC Rcd at 5198-206 ¶¶ 22-36; see also 47 C.F.R. § 79.105(d).

[14] See 47 C.F.R. § 79.2(b)(1); Clarification of Obligation of Video Programming Distributors to Make Emergency Information Accessible to Persons With Hearing Disabilities Using Closed Captioning, Public Notice, 21 FCC Rcd 15084, 15086 (2006) (December 2006 PN).

[15] See 47 C.F.R. § 79.2(b)(4).

[16] 47 C.F.R. § 79.1(c).

[17] See Closed Captioning and Video Description of Video Programming; Implementation of Section 305 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996; Accessibility of Emergency Programming, Second Report and Order, 15 FCC Rcd 6615, 6622, ¶ 13, n.48 (2000) (2000 Order). VPDs are required to pass through any captions that they receive from the originating source and are responsible for maintaining their equipment in working order to ensure the accurate transmission of the closed captions. Id.

[18] See e.g., Reminder Regarding Video Programming Distributors’ Obligation to Make Emergency Information Accessible to Persons Who are Deaf, Hard of Hearing, Blind, or Visually Impaired, Public Notice, 29 FCC Rcd 15096 (2014).

[19] See 47 C.F.R. § 79.2 Note to paragraph (a)(2): “Critical details include, but are not limited to, specific details regarding the areas that will be affected by the emergency, evacuation orders, detailed descriptions of areas to be evacuated, specific evacuation routes, approved shelters or the way to take shelter in one’s home, instructions on how to secure personal property, road closures, and how to obtain relief assistance.”

FCC NewsBytes 11/27

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Download the document HERE:  – DA-15-1367A1.pdf

 DA 15-1367 – Released: November 25, 2015

WIRELINE COMPETITION BUREAU APPROVES TRANSITION OVERSIGHT PLAN FOR NEXT LNPA; ANNOUNCES FIRST TRANSITION OUTREACH WEBCAST

WC Docket No. 07-149
WC Docket No. 09-109
CC Docket No. 95-116 

On August 31, 2015, the North American Portability Management LLC (NAPM LLC) filed a revised Transition Oversight Plan (Transition Plan or TOP) to help guide the process of transitioning to the next Local Number Portability Administrator (LNPA).  On October 29, 2015, the NAPM LLC filed an updated Transition Outreach and Education Plan (TOEP), which is appended to the Transition Plan as Attachment 5. By this Public Notice, and as fully discussed below, the Wireline Competition Bureau (Bureau) approves the revised Transition Plan and announces the first transition outreach webcast.

On March 26, 2015, the Commission adopted an Order accepting a recommendation from the North American Numbering Council, in coordination with the NAPM LLC, to select Telcordia d/b/a iconectiv (Telcordia) as the next LNPA.  The Commission conditionally accepted that recommendation subject to certain conditions and subject to its approval of the contract between the NAPM LLC and Telcordia.[1]  One condition required by the Commission is that the NAPM LLC file a Transition Plan for approval by the Bureau.[2]

On April 27, 2015, the NAPM LLC filed an initial Transition Plan,[3] on which the Bureau sought comment.[4]  Twelve parties filed comments or replies addressing the initial TOP. [5]  The commenters asked that the transition process be open and transparent, with Commission oversight, and that the process include all stakeholders, specifically small carriers, consumers, and state regulators.  In addition, the commenters asked that the transition process include adequate testing, cost controls, and benchmarks/penalties.

On August 31, 2015, the NAPM LLC refiled its Transition Plan,[6] amending it in response to comments filed and including a new TOEP.[7]  According to the NAPM LLC, the revised TOP “describes the oversight structure and methodology, risk management, timelines, performance benchmarks and incentives, dispute resolution, testing, stakeholder outreach and education, and steps to ensure security and reliability.”[8]  Later, on October 29, 2015, the NAPM LLC filed an updated TOEP[9] and the NAPM LLC is working with the Transition Oversight Manager to implement that plan.  As stated in the Updated TOEP, its objectives are to provide transparency in the LNPA transition, provide an open forum to gather and understand the concerns of interested parties, and incorporate that feedback into the Transition Plan.[10]  The Updated TOEP lists as its audiences the following interested parties:  large and small service providers, service bureaus and providers of telecommunications-related services, law enforcement agencies, telemarketers, regulators, trade associations, vendors, and consumer groups.[11]

In addition, the Updated TOEP sets forth the various communication and outreach channels to be used by the Transition Oversight Manager, such as webcasts, emails, and surveys, and sets forth the frequency of outreach, the key activities, how these items will be publicized, and the next steps in the transition process.[12]  The Transition Oversight Manager has scheduled the first in a series of LNPA transition outreach webcasts to keep interested parties informed about the upcoming LNPA transition, in accordance with the Updated TOEP.  The first transition outreach webcast is scheduled for December 9, 2015, from 3:00-4:00 pm, Eastern Standard Time.   Interested parties may register for the webcast by visiting: https://event.webcasts.com/starthere.jsp?ei=1084375.

The Bureau has reviewed the NAPM LLC’s revised Transition Plan, as well as the Updated TOEP.  Based on that review, we conclude that those plans outline reasonable steps that the NAPM LLC will take in the transition to a new LNPA, including the involvement of interested stakeholders in that transition.  We therefore approve the re-filed August 31 Transition Oversight Plan, including the updated October 29 Transition Outreach and Education Plan.  The NAPM LLC notes that it will update the TOP, as appropriate, and will publish any updates on the public portion of the NAPM LLC’s website as changes to the TOP are made.[13]  The Bureau requires that the NAPM LLC file any such updates in the above-referenced dockets.

Ex Parte Presentations.  This proceeding shall continue to be treated as a “permit-but-disclose” proceeding in accordance with the Commission’s ex parte rules and other relevant Bureau guidance.   In a Public Notice released on August 18, 2015, the Bureau modified the applicability of the Commission’s ex parte rules to this proceeding in certain respects.[14]   As further explained in that Public Notice, the Bureau determined that “the critical public safety and national security issues and the importance of a seamless and timely transition” justified modifications to the ex parte rule treatment of communications and meetings related to certain issues being addressed in this proceeding, including “the transition of the LNPA and related stakeholder outreach, education, and database testing” issues.[15]   Consequently, parties should consult the LNPA Ex Parte Status PN to determine if planned ex parte presentations are subject to the modified procedures discussed therein, or the Commission’s standard ex parte rules.  Parties should be aware that, to the extent that they make presentations to (i) Commission decision makers, (ii) the NAPM LLC, or (iii) the Transition Oversight Manager, beyond the subjects specified in the LNPA Ex Parte Status PN, the Commission’s filing requirements for “permit-but-disclose” proceedings under section 1.1206 of the Commission’s rules apply.

Persons making ex parte presentations must file a copy of any written presentation or a memorandum summarizing any oral presentation within two business days after the presentation (unless a different deadline applicable to the Sunshine period applies).  Persons making oral ex parte presentations are reminded that memoranda summarizing the presentation must (1) list all persons attending or otherwise participating in the meeting at which the ex parte presentation was made, and (2) summarize all data presented and arguments made during the presentation.  If the presentation consisted in whole or in part of the presentation of data or arguments already reflected in the presenter’s written comments, memoranda or other filings in the proceeding, the presenter may provide citations to such data or arguments in his or her prior comments, memoranda, or other filings (specifying the relevant page and/or paragraph numbers where such data or arguments can be found) in lieu of summarizing them in the memorandum.  Documents shown or given to Commission staff during ex parte meetings are deemed to be written ex parte presentations and must be filed consistent with rule 1.1206(b).  In proceedings governed by rule 1.49(f) or for which the Commission has made available a method of electronic filing, written ex parte presentations and memoranda summarizing oral ex parte presentations, and all attachments thereto, must be filed through the electronic comment filing system available for that proceeding, and must be filed in their native format (e.g., .doc, .xml, .ppt, searchable .pdf).  Participants in this proceeding should familiarize themselves with the Commission’s ex parte rules.

For further information, contact Michelle Sclater or Marilyn Jones, Competition Policy Division, Wireline Competition Bureau at (202) 418-0388 (Michelle) or Michelle.Sclater@fcc.gov, or (202) 418-2357 (Marilyn) or Marilyn.Jones@fcc.gov.

– FCC –

[1] Telcordia Technologies, Inc. Petition to Reform Amendment 57 and to Order a Competitive Bidding Process for Number Portability Administration et al., WC Docket No. 07-149 et al., Order, 30 FCC Rcd 3082 (2015).

[2] Id. at paras. 158-59.

[3] Letter from Todd D. Daubert, Counsel to the NAPM LLC, to Marlene H. Dortch, Secretary, FCC, WC Docket Nos. 07-149 and 09-109, CC Docket No. 95-116, Attach. (filed Apr. 27, 2015).

[4] Wireline Competition Bureau Seeks Comment on the North American Portability Management LLC’s Transition Oversight Plan for Local Number Portability Administrator Contract, WC Docket Nos. 07-149 and 09-109, CC Docket No. 95-116, Public Notice, 30 FCC Rcd 4646 (Wireline Comp. Bur. 2015).

[5] The following parties filed comments and/or reply comments on the initial TOP:  Nebraska Public Service Commission (Comments); NTCA—The Rural Broadband Association (Comments); John Staurulakis, Inc. (Comments); LNP Alliance (Comments and Reply); Competitive Carriers Association (CCA) (Comments); COMPTEL (Reply); NARUC (Reply); Telcordia Technologies, Inc. d/b/a iconectiv (Reply); Syniverse Technology (Reply); CCA, Open Technology Institute at New America, and Public Knowledge (Joint Reply); ITTA—The Voice of Mid-Size Communications Carriers (Reply); and Neustar, Inc. (Reply).

[6] Letter from Todd D. Daubert, Counsel to the NAPM LLC, to Marlene H. Dortch, Secretary, FCC, WC Docket Nos. 07-149 and 09-109, CC Docket No. 95-116 (filed Aug. 31, 2015) (Updated TOP).

[7] Updated TOP, Attach. 5.

[8] Updated TOP at 1.

[9] Letter from Todd D. Daubert, Counsel to the NAPM LLC, to Marlene H. Dortch, Secretary, FCC, WC Docket Nos. 07-149 and 09-109, CC Docket No. 95-116 (filed Oct. 29, 2015) (Updated  TOEP).

[10] Id. at 2.

[11] Id. at 3.

[12] Id. at 4-6, 8.

[13] NAPM LLC, LNPA Transition Reference Documents, https://www.napmllc.org/pages/npacrfp/npacRFP_RefDocs.aspx (last visited Nov. 25, 2015).

[14] Notice Concerning Ex Parte Status of Communications with Respect to the Local Number Portability Administrator Selection Proceeding, WC Docket Nos. 07-149 and 09-109, CC Docket No. 95-116, Public Notice, 30 FCC Rcd 8425 (Wireline Comp. Bur. 2015) (LNPA Ex Parte Status PN).

[15] Id. at 8426.