Dec. 20 Deadline for Providing Accessible Interfaces to Video Customers

Based on a 2013 FCC Order, small and mid-sized video providers finally must provide accessible user interfaces to their video customers by December 20, 2018. Implementation of these rules had been delayed for the smaller carriers until now. The FCC has provided limited waivers for the operation of two-way services, such as pay-per-view on systems that use quadrature amplified modulation (QAM) and those that provide analog-only video programming or do not offer broadband (see below for more on these exceptions). Note, all linear, digital programming on a QAM system is subject to the December deadline.

Mid-sized and smaller multichannel video programming distributor (MVPDs) must provide set-top boxes and other navigation devices which provide audible accessibility for on-screen text menus and guides.  Audible accessibility must be in real time upon request by individuals who are blind or visually impaired, if achievable.  Additionally, navigation devices with built-in closed captioning capability must include a mechanism that is reasonably comparable to a button, key or icon for activating the closed captioning.  All MVPDs that lease or sell navigation devices must comply with these rules.  And MVPDs must ensure that individuals with disabilities are aware of the availability of accessible navigation devices and have ready access to information and support that will allow operation of the device.

A mid-sized and smaller company is one that had fewer than 400K subscribers at the end of 2012 and MVPDs that have 20K or fewer subscribers and are not affiliated with an MVPD operator serving more than 10% of all MVPD subscribers as of year-end 2012.

There are two limited exceptions. On November 2, the FCC granted two waivers from the Accessible User Interfaces rules as follows:

  1. Users of QAM: There is a limited waiver of accessible user interfaces requirements for certain two-way services (e., video on demand) offered by mid-sized or smaller systems that utilize quadrature amplified modulation (QAM), and
  2. Analog-Only or No Provision of BIAS: There is waiver for accessibility to analog-only channels offered by small cable systems or for those companies that do not offer broadband internet access service to residential video subscribers.

Covered entities that meet the criteria for the waivers are not expected to comply by the December 20, 2018, deadline for the services subject to the waiver, but still must comply if other services are offered.

If you have any questions or would like additional information, please contact Valerie Wimer in JSI’s Maryland Office at 301-459-7590.