All regulated providers of telecommunications or advanced services and telecommunications equipment manufacturers must provide the FCC with an annual recordkeeping certification demonstrating compliance with the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (“CVAA”) by April 1st.
Through this certification, all such service providers and equipment manufacturers must certify that they have instituted recordkeeping requirements which document efforts to ensure covered services and equipment are accessible to individuals with disabilities unless doing so is not achievable. (There are also regulations related to close captioning of TV programs shown on the Internet, as well as access by disabled people to 911 and new generation 911 emergency service and the Emergency Alert System (“EAS”).)
This certification must be completed by all service providers providing interstate telecommunications or advanced services, IP-based communications services (including interconnected VoIP, non-interconnected VoIP, and ancillary VoIP-based communications services), instant messaging services, email services, and interoperable video conferencing services. Manufacturers of equipment which provides these services must also file a certification with the FCC.
CAUTIONARY NOTE: Like many FCC regulatory compliance reports, the annual officer CVAA recordkeeping compliance certification is the visible tip of a potentially large iceberg of regulatory requirements and burdens lurking beneath the surface (i.e., whether individual covered services and devices are sufficiently accessible by people with disabilities). Superficially, the certification may appear straightforward and benign. But the reality for certain affected companies, chiefly those in the “retail market,” can be quite different. Besides FCC regulation, some courts are enforcing CVAA standards through actions brought under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) or state disability laws.
To fully understand the CVAA and FCC rules implementing the CVAA and how they affect your business before an officer executes and submits the annual recordkeeping certification, we recommend seeking the assistance of experienced legal counsel. Clients of The CommLaw Group should contact the Attorney responsible for their account with the firm; all others may contact Jonathan S. Marashlian at jsm@CommLawGroup.com or by phone, 703-714-1313.
If you are uncertain about how to implement the CVAA Rules, or the specific steps your company must take to ensure compliance, our firm is available to assist. First, we recommend that all companies review the background information contained in this email to ascertain compliance steps. The FCC’s Public Notice regarding implementation of CVAA provides additional, helpful information on recordkeeping compliance obligations: https://transition.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2013/db0129/DA-13-114A1.pdf
Clients that still have questions about the upcoming recordkeeping certification, or compliance with the CVAA and the FCC’s disability accessibility requirements generally, can purchase the firm’s CVAA Compliance Manual. This is a concise, easy way to ensure compliance with current and pending FCC disability compliance regulations imposed by the CVAA.
Clients that have further questions, or require dedicated assistance with disability compliance, are encouraged to consult with an attorney to conduct a CVAA Compliance Review. A CVAA Compliance Review will not only confirm your company’s compliance during the prior calendar year and identify areas that require further attention, but will also help ensure full compliance with the FCC’s rules, thereby making future reviews easier, faster, and less costly.
CLIENT ACTION ITEMS:
Clients subscribed to our Managed Compliance Services will be contacted shortly regarding the timely submission of the Recordkeeping Certification. Clients will be asked to identify the following contact information:
- Contact information of the person or persons authorized to resolve accessibility and usability concerns or complaints reported by consumers;
- Name and contact details of the company’s D.C. Registered agent, if other than The Commpliance Group; and,
- The company officer authorized to certify annual compliance with the new recordkeeping requirement.
Clients not currently subscribed to Managed Compliance Services, but who require assistance with compliance, should contact Chris Canter at firstname.lastname@example.org or Michael Donahue at email@example.com at your earliest convenience to ensure timely filing. Failure to remit required data in a timely manner may result in delinquent remittance and the imposition of penalties.
Section 255 of the Communications Act of 1934 requires telecommunications service providers and equipment manufacturers to ensure that their services and equipment are accessible to individuals with disabilities, if readily achievable. In 2007, the FCC adopted rules to extend these accessibility obligations to interconnected VoIP service providers and equipment manufacturers. In 2010, Congress enacted the CVAA, which added additional accessibility obligations to the Communications Act.
On October 7, 2011, the FCC adopted rules implementing the CVAA, as follows:
- Regulated providers must ensure that services and equipment are accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities, unless doing so is not achievable.
- Regulated providers must keep records of compliance with the CVAA and certify recordkeeping compliance with the FCC on an annual basis.
- Device manufacturers and providers of mobile services must ensure that Internet browsers which include voice communications are usable by individuals who are blind or have a visual impairment, unless doing so is not achievable.
Under the FCC’s rules, all regulated service providers and equipment manufacturers must maintain records of the efforts taken to implement the CVAA, as follows:
- Information about efforts to consult with individuals with disabilities;
- Descriptions of the accessibility features of its products and services; and
- Information about the compatibility of such products and services with peripheral devices or specialized customer premise equipment commonly used by individuals with disabilities to achieve access.
Compliance Certification Requirements
All regulated service providers and equipment manufacturers must file with the FCC a certification that records are being kept in accordance with the statute. The certification must state that the manufacturer or service provider has established operating procedures adequate to ensure compliance with the recordkeeping rules, and that it is keeping records accordingly.
The certification must also identify the name and contact details of the person (or persons) within the company who is authorized to resolve complaints and the agent designated for service of informal and formal complaints. The certification must be updated when necessary to keep the contact information current.
Contact information submitted to the FCC will be publically available on the FCC’s website. Contact information will be used by the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau to serve informal and formal complaints. The information will also be used by the FCC for the purpose of contacting a company to facilitate resolution of an accessibility issue when a consumer files a request for dispute assistance.
The CVAA’s recordkeeping and certification requirements apply to all service providers and manufacturers that are subject to Sections 255, 716 and 718 of the Communications Act. Section 255 requires manufacturers of telecommunications equipment or customer premises equipment and telecommunications service providers to ensure that their equipment and/or services are accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities. Section 716 extends similar accessibility and usability requirements to manufacturers and providers of “advanced communications services,” which include interconnected VoIP, non-interconnected VoIP, electronic messaging and interoperable video services. Section 718 requires manufacturers and providers of telephones used for public mobile service that include an Internet browser to ensure that the functions of the browser are accessible and usable by persons with disabilities. Telecommunications carriers, and to some extent interconnected VoIP service providers, were already required to make their services accessible to persons with disabilities, but they did not have corresponding recordkeeping and certification requirements.
Pursuant to this annual certification, all regulated communications service providers and equipment manufacturers must certify that the company has instituted recordkeeping policies and procedures necessary to document the company’s efforts to ensure all communications services and equipment subject to Sections 255, 716 and 718 are accessible to individuals with disabilities.
FULL COMPLIANCE WITH ACCESSIBILITY REQUIREMENTS
All clients are advised that by October 8, 2013, all entities covered by the CVAA must be in compliance with the FCC’s disability access rules. This means that all regulated products or services offered to the public must be accessible and useable by persons with disabilities, unless not achievable. In addition, information and documentation such as bills, customer support and call centers regarding a product must be accessible to individuals with disabilities.
Failure to achieve compliance will likely result in fines and penalties for non-compliance. The FCC is in the process of developing a dedicated CVAA complaint process to assist with enforcement of accessibility and usability requirements. Through this process consumers will have direct access to the FCC’s enforcement of the new requirements, and the FCC has indicated that it will take all complaints seriously. Hence compliance with all the new CVAA regulations and recordkeeping requirements is imperative.