Tuesday, October 12, 2010
FCC Commissioner Statements On the Signing of the Equal Access To Access To 21st Century Communications Act
“The 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act is the most significant disability law in two decades. The law’s provisions were endorsed in the FCC’s National Broadband Plan. They will bring communication laws into the 21st Century, providing people with disabilities access to new broadband technologies and promoting new opportunities for innovation.
“Most importantly, the new law will ensure that people with disabilities are not left behind and can share fully in the economic and social benefits of broadband. The law will enable people with disabilities to participate in our 21st century economy.
“It is thanks to the bipartisan efforts of the legislation’s sponsors Representative Markey and Senator Pryor and the bipartisan commitment of Chairmen Representative Waxman and Senator Rockefeller and ranking members Representative Barton and Senator Hutchison that this update to our nation’s disability laws has become a reality. Subcommittee Chairmen Representative Boucher and Senator Kerry and ranking members Representative Stearns and Senator Ensign are also to be commended for their tireless work.
“The FCC, with the tremendous leadership of longtime advocate Karen Peltz Strauss, looks forward to working with consumer, industry, and government stakeholders as we assume the responsibility of ensuring the effective implementation of this landmark legislation.”
Today, I was very pleased to witness President Obama sign The Equal Access to 21st Century Communications Act. This law will substantially advance an important principle that Congress wove into the fabric of communications policy years ago: That individuals living with disabilities should be able to use the same communications services that are available to all other Americans. This legislation is a strong step toward that reality.
The Americans with Disabilities Act and the Hearing Aid Compatibility Act served to provide people with disabilities access to voice telephony services, but our rapid technological advances demand regulatory adaptation. Today, due to tremendous innovation and investment, Americans are seeking much more than just voice service from their mobile handsets. As this Act recognizes, consumers now expect access to video programming on their mobile phones, net books and other portable devices, and access to VoIP telephone service on their computers. This Act will give the Commission greater statutory authority to adopt rules that will offer people living with disabilities greater access to video programming, and the most advanced voice and data services on the market, irrespective of the communications platform being used to deliver those services. It also gives the Commission authority to reinstate its video description rules and to take measures to ensure people with disabilities have the information they need during times of emergency.
I was also pleased to see that the Act directs the Commission to provide relay service support for the distribution of customer premises equipment to make telecommunications and related services accessible by individuals who are deaf and blind. This is truly landmark legislation on behalf of the deaf and blind community with regard to access to communications services.
I understand that broad consensus among groups representing people living with disabilities and members of our communications industry played a critical role to having Congress consider and pass this legislation as quickly as it did. I commend this effort. This is a terrific example of how industry consensus and collaboration can play such a vital role in speeding much needed services to all Americans.