Recently, the FCC issued a Public Notice reminding the providers and equipment manufacturers of advanced communications services (ACS) of their obligation to maintain records evidencing their efforts to comply with the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA). In addition, these entities are also required to submit an annual certification stating that such records are being kept in accordance with the statute. The CVAA is a 2010 law ensuring access to ACS for people with disabilities, and the FCC began issuing regulations implementing the legislation in 2011.
It is important to keep in mind the continuously evolving nature of the FCC’s accessibility obligations. In 1999, the FCC issued rules implementing Section 255 of the 1996 Telecommunications Act, requiring telecommunications service providers and their equipment manufacturers to make their products and services accessible to people with disabilities. In 2007, the FCC extended the accessibility requirements of Section 255 to the historically unregulated interconnected Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) providers and equipment manufacturers.
The CVAA goes even further, extending these accessibility obligations to ACS providers and equipment manufacturers, thereby including both interconnected and non-interconnected VoIP, as well as electronic messaging services and interoperable video conferencing services in the realm of regulated services. As a result, many of these previously unregulated entities may be unaware not only that their operations are now covered by the CVAA, but that important compliance deadlines also loom on the horizon this year.
The new recordkeeping obligations for covered entities should be looked at as two separate but related requirements. First, covered entities are now required – beginning January 30, 2013 – to maintain in the ordinary course of business records of their compliance with the new regulations implementing the CVAA. These records must include the following items:
Information about efforts to consult with individuals with disabilities;
Descriptions of the accessibility features that are a part of products and services; &
Information about the compatibility of products and services with peripheral devices or specialized customer premise equipment commonly used by individuals with disabilities to achieve access.
By April 1, 2013, the covered entities must file their first certification showing that they are in compliance with the recordkeeping requirements, and also provide certain other contact information in order to efficiently resolve consumer complaints. Covered entities must identify the name and contact details of a person within the company who is authorized to resolve customer complaints, as well as an agent designated for the service of informal and formal complaints alleging violations of the CVAA rules. The contact information must list the person’s title, address, phone number, and if available, TTY number, fax, and email.
Covered entities should note that these designations must be done for each entity or subsidiary that is subject to the CVAA; the implementing regulations cannot be satisfied by designating one overall contact person for a parent company.
Importantly, the entire certification must be supported by an affidavit or declaration under penalty of perjury, which is signed and dated by an authorized officer of the company or subsidiary with personal knowledge of the representations provided.
Lastly, the certification must then be filed electronically on the FCC’s website. Once filed, it is the requirement of the covered entity to update the information within 30 days of any material change.
Since these new rules are now impacting many companies that have little or no experience with direct FCC regulation, newly covered entities should begin formulating a plan for compliance with these rapidly approaching deadlines as soon as possible.