Wednesday, December 15, 2010

YouTube Buying Next New Networks. What Does It Mean?

Today the New York Times reported that YouTube is in talks to buy Next New Networks. What does this mean for the deaf and hard of hearing community? First we have to look at why YouTube is doing this and its significance, then look at what it could mean for the deaf and hard of hearing community.

Why and Significance of the Purchase

YouTube buying Next New Networks could be a game changer. When a company of YouTube's caliber buys a web series network, it sends a message. That message is, web series have grown enough in popularity and importance that we want to own the network that hosts them. These days, popular web series can get more views than regular television programs. YouTube is doing this because YouTube wants to become a content owner of professional video without actually producing the content.

This is significant because it echoes the Disney-ABC business model. YouTube is becoming like Disney, a parent company, and Next New Networks is becoming like ABC. Like Disney, YouTube would not actually produce the content. Like ABC, Next New Networks does not actually produce the content but hosts it for outside producers.

Caption Action 2 predicts that if YouTube succeeds in buying Next New Networks, other web series networks could be sought after by companies. We predict that Microsoft, AOL, or Yahoo will seek to buy web series networks. If this happens, we will see the formation of parent company-web series network relationships that will result in the ABC, NBC, and CBS of the web.

Possible Implications for Deaf/HOH Community

What could this mean for the deaf and hard of hearing community's efforts to get web series closed captioned? Caption Action 2 thinks it could have a positive impact. Right now, one problem with getting companies to caption web series is that the producers are often small, and have limited resources. This limitation could be overcome when the web series' network hosts are owned by wealthier corporate parents.

How captioning paid for now with regular television networks? Jamie once asked that question and was told that it varies - sometimes the network pays, sometimes the producer, sometimes the cost is shared between the network and the producer. So theoretically, if YouTube owns Next New Networks, YouTube could pay for, or share the cost of, captioning web series hosted by Next New Networks, with Next New Networks.

Therefore, it will become harder for the "we can't afford it" argument to be made. As an analogy, look at the situation of a deaf person needing an interpreter at a medical office. The doctor's office may claim they can't afford the interpreter, but the law looks at the TOTAL resources - if the doctor's office is part of a network of medical offices, the law looks at the total resources of the network. Ergo, instead of trying to hold the individual tiny producers responsible for captioning of web series, we may be able to hold the wealthy corporate parent responsible for ensuring captioning.

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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Caption Action 2: December 2010 Newsletter

This is the Caption Action 2 newsletter for December 2010.

New York Times on Web Series

You know the web series business has arrived as an entertainment industry, when the New York Times takes note. In November, the New York Times launched an occasional feature in their ArtsBeat section, a column called Watchlist. It started November 12. Check it out via the watchlist tag: The comments contain lots of mention of other web series.

Read more:

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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Number One Web Series is Now Captioned!

Thanks to Sebastian Andrade, The Annoying Orange is now closed captioned! After Caption Action 2 began making noise about no closed captions on Annoying Orange, Sebastian contacted CA 2 and let us know about his captioned videos on DotSub, where his moniker is SpongeSebastian. Then Sebastian reached out to the producer of The Annoying Orange, offering to share his caption files.

Today, Sebastian tweeted Jamie to let her know that there are now captions on this number 1 web series! The producer had accepted his offer! Sebastian hopes to get all the past episodes captioned, too. For now, there are two captioned episodes on The Annoying Orange:

Annoying Saw 2: The Annoying Death Trap


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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Dateline: 2012

Today a very reliable source pointed Caption Action 2 to a timeline for the implementation of the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act, developed by a law firm and posted on the Internet. This timeline is a downloadable PDF file. According to this timeline, we can expect Internet closed captioning regulations to be published in Spring 2012.

So what does this mean for us? Until regulations are published, companies don't have to caption online. Between now and Spring 2012, all we can do is ask, plead, push, demand. All the while reminding them that it is going to be the law soon, so they may as well start now.

The timeline also indicates that at about the same time, regulations will also be published for caption decoding capability in devices. However, it looks like we have to wait until 2014 for CC buttons to be mandatory for remote controls.

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Friday, October 1, 2010

Vampire Mob Begins Captioning!

Today Vampire Mob ( notified us that they were starting to closed caption! The first captioned episode from the first season is up, with more to come.

Caption Action 2 first contacted the producer of Vampire Mob on September 5. At that time, Vampire Mob was using Vimeo for their web series. On September 22, Vampire Mob's producer wrote back that he was the only one on the staff, and that the show was produced on a microbudget. However, a hearing fan would be assisting with closed captioning for their new YouTube channel!

(One of the few G-Rated Screen Shots Available!)
(He's a hitman and a vampire and he just found out his mother in law is moving in for eternity)

Just one week later, on October 1, Vampire Mob wrote again to announce that they had started captioning on YouTube! How did they do it so quickly? Simple! The aforementioned hearing fan listened to the video and compared the spoken dialogue to what was on a text script, then the producer "dropped all the lines into the timecode." The results are excellent; Caption Action 2 watched the video and did not see any errors unlike with unedited automatic captions.

This tiny producer with a shoestring budget has accomplished something that is apparently too difficult for wealthier producers. (Yes, that is sarcasm!) Let's reward Vampire Mob's producer by spreading the word about this entertainment web series being captioned! You can also send your thank-yous to

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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Help Get The Annoying Orange to Caption!

Today Mashable/Visible Measures came out with their new monthly list of top web series. For the seventh straight month, The Annoying Orange was #1. This is the web series that Caption Action 2 has tried to get to closed caption, but they have not responded at all. Getting the top web series to closed caption is critically important because if we can not get the top web series to caption, it makes it that much harder to convince less popular web series to closed caption. As they say, leadership has to start at the top.

Photo from Guest Appearance on Other Web Series

So tonight, Caption Action 2 launched a new Facebook group: Dane Boedigheimer Should Caption The Annoying Orange! ( Our hope is that enough people, both hearing and deaf, will join and/or send emails to the producer to help make an impact on the producer of The Annoying Orange. This new Facebook group is considered a temporary group; we will take it down when the producer of The Annoying Orange commits to closed captioning with quality closed captions.

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Friday, September 24, 2010

Catheters, Not Accurate Captions

Even the Federal government is getting into web series now. But they can't be bothered to spend a few dollars for accurate closed captions. An example of this can be seen in the new (actually two months old) Federal web series $100 Note Podcast on the YouTube US Currency channel.

Caption Action 2 learned about the existence of this web series from a review on the TubeFilter blog. We checked out the first episode of this six-episode web series and found there are captions - but they are the YouTube automatic captions with no editing.

The little gem displayed here is an example of why the Federal government, when it budgets for a web series, should invest at least a few dollars in editing the automatic captions generated by YouTube. What is the caption trying to say? That the three agencies have to stay ahead of catheters (catheter: that thing that is placed inside a private part as a substitute for natural urination) because they are afraid consumers may pee on the $100 dollar bill?

Don't bother trying to watch the other episodes in this series. They too have only the YouTube automatic captions.

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Monday, September 13, 2010

Guest Blog: Creating Captions for Streamed Netflix Videos

Carolina Maria wrote the following guest blog for Caption Action 2, about creating subtitles for Netflix streamed videos.

Watch Streaming Movies in Netflix with Subtitles/Captions!

Netflix is a rental service of videos that provides its subscribers with two options:

1. Pick movies or any other video you wish to watch and they will mail the movies to your residence.

2. Instant watch; Streaming movies or any other video that you can watch on their website right away, without download.*

3. Netflix Ready Service: You use a device they provide you with to hook up with your TV and watch the videos there.*

*Not all videos have this ability, however the numbers are increasing.

For Instant Watch, they do not have captioning on their videos yet and when they do start implementing, it is not guaranteed that they will start to enable subtitles for every movie.

Recently, a .DFXP converter was developed ( It lets us convert the most common file extension for subtitling, .SRT, to .DFXP, which is good news because Microsoft's Silverlight, the program Netflix uses for their streaming videos, only recognizes that extension to enable subtitles.

However, it's not that simple. It just happens that Netflix has different timeline for their streaming videos (for example, added introduction for Netflix at beginning). In that case, the subtitles and the Netflix's video are not synchronized. You might end up reading an line that is only spoken 5 seconds later.

Since I am deaf, I was frustrated so my friend and I decided to convert the .SRT files to .DFXP and correct the timing of the subtitles to match Netflix's streaming videos. We thought, if we are going to do that... Why not share the files, readily available, for other Netflix's subscribers too?

You can download the .DFXP files of subtitles for Netflix videos on the Website and follow the newest uploads on Twitter, You can check the instructions here, which is surprisingly simple and short.

Please note that, unfortunately, the .DFXP does not work on the Netflix Ready Service. It only works when you watch the movie on your computer.

Enjoy the movies!

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Saturday, September 4, 2010

Caption Action 2 Newsletter: September 2010

This is the Caption Action 2 newsletter for September 2010.


This month should bring a final vote by the House on the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act. The House is expected to pass S 3304, which passed the Senate in August.

As you know, S 3304 leaves out a very important and fast-growing area of entertainment: original television-like programming for the web. Anyone can produce a web series, but not all web series programs get large enough viewership to merit being pressured to closed caption.

Read more:

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Saturday, August 28, 2010

Come On, Google, Do The Right Thing!

Google has jumped into the web series biz, producing its own web series, Google Beat. Google Beat is about search engine term popularity, and has a human host. Google Beat is on YouTube of course - but they are using the inaccurate automatic captioning. (For instance, in the picture below, are they talking about what we are eating for breakfast, not what we are hearing for breakfast?) Google knows that the automatic captioning is not that good, and that's why they have the YouTube Ready Program so companies can have professional options that can be used in conjunction with YouTube automatic captioning.

It is critical that we convince Google to use professional help to caption Google Beat. If we can't get Google to do the right thing, that makes it that much harder to get others to do the right thing too.

How can you help? You can help by:
  1. Go to Google Beat on YouTube:
  2. Go down the page until you see the "Send Message" option

  3. Click "Send Message."
  4. Sign in using either your Google account or YouTube account
  5. Tell Google that the automatic captions are not acceptable, that they should use Google's own YouTube Ready Program at

Google is a wealthy company and can certainly afford the pittance it costs to closed caption through their own YouTube Ready Program! Shame on Google for not doing the right thing from the very start with their own web series!

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Saturday, August 21, 2010

Runic Films Willing to Caption, But...

Yesterday, Caption Action 2 contacted the producers of a children's web series, eScape. The premise of eScape is given in a press release: "eScape tells the story of a group of campers seemingly abandoned by their counselors. They soon discover they are trapped within a video game that grants them amazing abilities. But in the real world, this game is the object of a power struggle between powerful corporations and mysterious military interests."

Today, Caption Action 2 received an email from Ben Alpi (, director and producer of eScape. Mr. Alpi's response shows a real willingness to caption, except for one problem:

"At present we don't have closed captioning (one of the few downsides with the Vimeo player) but we do plan to do it as soon as we're able (even if we have to post on YouTube or create a special version of the video.) We're currently on the search for volunteers for that and to do subtitles for as many languages as we can. The last series I worked on, Star Trek: Phase II we had several languages. We've been so busy getting the series out on schedule though, it may be some weeks until we're up and running with CC.

By the way, if you would like to urge Vimeo in this area, I'd certainly be for it. It's been a request for at least 3 years."

Checking Vimeo's site, apparently Mr. Alpi's correct. In the FAQ on closed captioning, it says:
"Vimeo does not currently support the use of separate closed captioning text files. If you want any kind of text to appear in your video, including closed captioning, it needs to be added to the actual video, like any other graphics.

We hope to have time to develop proper support for closed captioning soon."
Vimeo does have captioned videos, but the captioning is embedded as open captions, not closed captions. Below is an example found on Vimeo when we used the captioning keyword:

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Revision3 Pledges to Caption All of its Web Series!

One of the many web series producers Caption Action 2 contacted about captioning their web series, was (Memory refresher: the HR 3101 and S 3304 bills do not require original web television programming to be captioned). is a website that produces and broadcasts only original web series programs, some as long as an hour.

Caption Action 2 corresponded with Ron Richards, the Senior Director of Marketing & Product Management for Revision3. Mr. Richards' first response was "unfortunately we don't have any captioning functionality at this time - we'd like to but ultimately right now, we haven't found a cost effective way to enable it on our site. " By "our site," he means the Revision3 site itself. Caption Action 2 responded with three options for captioning: use YouTube automatic captions; professional captioning service; freeware or online subtitling sites; buying software and doing it themselves.

To that, Mr. Richards replied, "we've actually been looking into the YouTube automatic captioning and are looking to that as an option - while there are many options as you laid out, we're still a small startup company with limited resource in both money and people - so sometimes we have to make tough decisions - but captioning is definitely something we want to figure out how to get implemented."

Caption Action 2 responded with the recommendation that they use YouTube. Mr. Richards said that is what they will do. Then Caption Action 2 asked when they would begin YouTube automatic captioning, as it has to be enabled by the video owner.

Mr. Richards' final response is something to cheer: "I don't have an exact ETA for you - we have one person managing our YouTube presence, and he's got a very full plate - I'm going to bring this up with him immediately and hope that we can get all our videos/channels enabled by the end of this month, if not sooner."

Kudos to Mr. Richards for his willingness to make Revision3 programming more accessible! It turns out that most of their programming is already auto-captioned on YouTube. The fact he wants to make ALL of their programming auto-captioned is something to cheer! If you would like to thank Mr. Richards, his email address is

Caption Action 2 will probably become a fan of iFanboy, a show about comic books!

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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Industry Wins. Deaf Pay the Price.

How high a price are we paying for Congress not requiring original web television programming to have closed captions? The price is already high, and getting higher by the day! Caption Action 2 is still learning just how high that price is.

Professionally produced web television is exploding on the Internet. More money is being poured into it, and the quality has increased to the point that web television now has its own version of the Emmys, the Streamys.

Web television may not be the correct term. Increasingly, the term we see being used more and more is "web series." One company is even financing an entire movie to be released online as a web series! In fact, the audience for web television has grown so much that Mashable now releases a monthly list of the top web series.


Caption Action 2 is learning about the producers of professional web series, and contacting them to ask about captioning. So far, we have contacted five! - Babelgum pays for professional video, as reported by Fast Company. - has 52 original web television series. - recently got an infusion of money. In addition, the company recently released a press release about their new web programming. - the company describes itself as "the leading provider of original, episodic series programming for the Internet." - this is backed by Michael Eisner, formerly of Disney. has a FAQ that says at the bottom:
Q: Does Crackle have subtitles or closed captioning?
A: Currently, Crackle does not offer subtitles or closed captioning but please be assured we are working on implementing them into our system.


When contacted by Caption Action 2, said "our Product Team is currently working on it. It's certainly something we would like to be able to offer sooner rather than later, but there are also technological issues involved, in terms of what we can make work on our site." Caption Action 2 is trying to get a more definite response as to when will begin captioning.

Likewise, responded that they had "no plans" to closed caption as of now. Caption Action 2 has not responded yet to

What can we do? Congress just passed legislation that will get us guaranteed access to regular television programming on the web, but already, a whole new world of web entertainment is leapfrogging ahead, and we don't have any legal guarantee to captions in this new world! All we can do is ask for, push for, plead for, and demand captions on web series!

It does not matter to Caption Action 2 if a web producer is small. If they can afford to produce professional web series - the key word here is PROFESSIONAL - they can afford to caption!

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Thursday, August 5, 2010

We've Won. And We've Lost.

We've won...

We've kind of won.

The hard work of the National Association of the Deaf and the Coalition of Organizations for Accessible Technology has resulted in the Senate modifying S 3304 so it is more like HR 3101! There was then a last big push on to get the Senate to pass S 3304!

Update! At 10 pm last night the Senate passed S 3304 unanimously! COAT trumpeted the news late last night!


We've also lost.

Despite the hard work of NAD and COAT, the "new" S 3304 does NOT include the provision for broadcasters to report to the FCC every two years about how much Internet-only programming they are captioning. It also does not include the provision for the FCC to, three years after the law takes effect, recommend whether closed captioning requirements should be extended to Internet-only television programming.

Caption Action 2 will be continuing the fight! There is a whole big new and growing world of Internet-only television out there, and we will be pushing Internet-only broadcasters to caption! We don't have the luxury of waiting for future Federal regulation - we've got to push them now! Now that this Congressional battle is over, watch for word from Caption Action 2 on who we will be targeting!

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Sunday, August 1, 2010

Caption Action 2: August 2010 Newsletter

This is the Caption Action 2 newsletter for August 2010!


On July 26, 2010, in keeping with the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the House of Representatives voted and passed HR 3101, 348 to 23! Happily, the version of HR 3101 that passed the House also restored the $10 million to help deaf-blind people purchase equipment.


We can't celebrate yet. We still need to pass the SENATE. The Senate could vote any day now!

Read more:

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Monday, July 26, 2010

HR 3101 Will Pass - Next Stop: Senate!

In a voice vote earlier today, the House passes HR 3101 and is expected to pass it tonight.

Amy Cohen Efron posted about it, HR3101 PASSED UNANIMOUSLY!, on her blog.

Next stop is the Senate.

What does this mean for Caption Action 2 when the Senate passes the bill also? Simply put, our job is done. The blog and the Facebook group will be closed.

Great job, everyone!


It passes!

348 to 23!

(source -

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Next Stop For HR 3101 - Full House Floor!

This morning, HR 3101 went through its second markup. It was a great day for everyone, especially the deaf-blind. Here's what happened;

- the $10 million deaf-blind provision was restored
- Rep. Baldwin suggests addition of adding captioning to Public, Educational, and Government channels.

Now it's on the way to the House floor for a full vote!

The video of the markup is here in downloadable and streamed formats:

Full Committee Markup

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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Second HR 3101 Markup 7/21 At 10am!

HR 3101 will have its second markup tomorrow morning (June 21) in Rayburn Room 2123 at 10 AM.

Keep an eye on this blog and on COAT's website for more:

COAT Looks Forward to House Energy & Commerce Committee Markup of H.R. 3101

Update: Full Committee Markup

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Friday, July 16, 2010

Do You Want A Toothless HR 3101? Act Now!

Caption Action 2 was aware that there had been changes made to the "new" HR 3101 that is going to be voted on by the full House Energy and Commerce Committee, any day now. What we did not know, was exactly what changes and how much was changed! In an effort to craft a bill that industry would accept, industry got a lot of what they demanded - with the result that our bill risks becoming toothless.


The Coalition of Organizations for Accessible Technology (COAT) sent Caption Action 2 the following Action Alert, which we are reprinting in full, along with commentary. If you do not like the changes that were made in the new HR 3101 - act now, because there is NO TIME TO LOSE. There will be a vote ANY DAY NOW.

From: COAT

Subject: Action Alert -- H.R. 3101 Energy and Commerce Committee

Congress Needs to Hear from You

It is time for us to make noise about H.R. 3101. We want H.R. 3101 to be as strong as possible to ensure accessible advanced communications and video programming in the 21st Century.

Industry has been making a lot of noise about H.R. 3101. Industry claims that H.R. 3101 will require all advanced communication and video programming equipment and services to be accessible to every person with every kind of disability. Industry says this requirement will stifle innovation and prevent new technology, products, and services from coming into the market. Even though these claims are not true, Congress has changed H.R. 3101 to address these industry concerns. The new H.R. 3101 (approved by the House Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet on June 30, 2010) added several industry protections.

Congress has heard a lot from industry about H.R. 3101.

Now it is time for Congress to hear from us.

Tell members of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce:

· Making advanced communication products and services accessible does not stifle innovation; accessibility requires innovation.

· Manufacturers and service providers only need make advanced communications accessible when it is achievable through reasonable effort and expense.

· Restore H.R. 3101 Section 105(b) to ensure funding for specialized communication equipment for people who are deaf-blind.

Caption Action 2: We already knew about this one, and had blogged it previously in the post From $10 million to Zero...for Deaf-Blind People!

· Restore H.R. 3101 Section 107 to ensure all advanced communications, such as mobile Internet browsing functionality, are accessible to and usable by people who are blind or visually impaired.

Caption Action 2: What does the absence of this section mean? We looked at "old" HR 3101 and found that section 107 would have modified the Communications Act to add this language: "Every provider of Internet access service and every manufacturer of Internet access equipment shall, unless it would result in an undue burden, make user interfaces for such service and equipment accessible to individuals with disabilities, including those interfaces used to initiate, monitor, and control such service.". So not having that in the new HR 3101 means that blind and visually impaired people would not be guaranteed access to the internet devices of the future! We are sure that Jesse Acosta, the blinded veteran who testified on Capitol Hill, is NOT a happy camper about this.

· Further inquiries are not needed to determine the use and benefits of video description for people who are blind or visually impaired. Strike the video description inquiries from Section 202.

· Do not prohibit the FCC from increasing video description beyond 7 hours per week on only 9 channels. Strike the limit on video description from Section 202.

Caption Action 2: Does anyone remember the days when we had only a few hours of captioning on television? Saying the FCC can't increase video description for the blind and visually impaired is like telling the deaf that they can't have more captioned programming.

· Do not limit captioning on the Internet to video programming first published or exhibited on television. Strike “first published or exhibited on television” from Section 202(b). Do not leave deaf and hard of hearing people behind as television moves to the Internet, including video programming shown first or exclusively on the Internet and new IPTV services!

Caption Action 2: We are frankly pissed off to learn about this one!! What this means is that with the new HR 3101, we can only expect closed captioning online for television programming that was aired on regular television - but NOT for original Internet-based television programming! With this kind of rule, if Marlee Matlin's "My Deaf Family" was a regularly-aired Internet-only program it would be exempt from having to have closed captions.

· All devices, regardless of size, can and must be capable of displaying closed captions. Strike the achievable standard and waiver authority for closed captions in Section 203.

Caption Action 2: We found language in new HR 3101 that said devices with screens 13 inches or less have to be able to display closed captions only if it is "achievable." This basically opens the door for manufacturers to be able to say "we can't do it" and apply for waivers. It also appears to mean that manufacturers would legally be able to come out with the latest and greatest small cell phones and then claim it was not doable to include closed caption display capability.

Here's what you need to do:

Use the information above to craft your message.

Call or fax the members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee now (list below) and ask them to make H.R. 3101 as strong as possible.

Send e-mail messages through the members’ websites available at

Contact them today!

House Committee on Energy and Commerce
(in alphabetical order by State)

Parker Griffith (R-AL-5)

202-225-4801 Phone
202-225-4392 Fax

Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA-14)

202-225-8104 Phone
202-225-8890 Fax

George Radanovich (R-CA-19)

202-225-4540 Phone
202-225-3402 Fax

Henry Waxman, Chair (D-CA-30)

202-225-3976 Phone
202-225-4099 Fax

Mary Bono Mack (R-CA-45)

202-225-5330 Phone
202-225-2961 Fax

Christopher S. Murphy (D-CT-5)

202-225-4476 Phone
202-225-5933 Fax

Cliff Stearns (R-FL-6)

202-225-5744 Phone
202-225-3973 Fax

John Shimkus (R-IL-19)

202-225-5271 Phone
202-225-5880 Fax

Baron P. Hill (D-IN-9)

202-225-5315 Phone
202-225-6866 Fax

Charlie Melancon (D-LA-3)

202-225-4031 Phone
202-225-3354 Fax

Bart Stupak (D-MI-1)

202-225 4735 Phone
202-225-4744 Fax

Fred Upton (R-MI-6)

202-225-3761 Phone
202-225-4986 Fax

Mike Rogers (R-MI-8)

202-225-4872 Phone
202-225-5820 Fax

Roy Blunt, Deputy Ranking Member (R-MO-7)

202-225-6536 Phone
202-225-5604 Fax

Lee Terry (R-NE-2)

202-225-4155 Phone
202-225-5452 Fax

G. K. Butterfield (D-NC-1)

202-225-3101 Phone
202-225-3354 Fax

Robert E. Latta (R-OH-5)

202-225-6405 Phone
800-278-8203 Fax

Zachary T. Space (D-OH-18)

202-225-6265 Phone
202-225-3394 Fax

Bart Gordon (D-TN-6)

202-225-4231 Phone
202-225-6687 Fax

Marsha Blackburn (R-TN-7)

202-225-2811 Phone
202-225-3002 Fax

Joe Barton, Ranking Member (R-TX-6)

202-225-2002 Phone
202-225-3052 Fax

Rick Boucher (D-VA-9)

202-225-3861 Phone
202-225-0442 Fax

Peter Welch (D-VT-AL)

202-225-4115 Phone
202-225-6790 Fax

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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Yet Another Step Forward for Equal Access!

Earlier today, S 3304 had a markup together with three other bills and nominations. They recommended that it be moved to the Senate floor for a vote.

Caption Action 2 does not know yet what the fate of the deaf-blind provision was, but, according to the National Journal, "The panel approved a substitute that included as its text a modified version of the technology accessibility bill the House Energy and Commerce Communications Subcommittee approved last month."

Additional media coverage appeared in:

Broadcasting and Cable
The Hill
CED Magazine

What's next? FULL floor/committee votes are coming soon! This is when all the work you have put into contacting your representatives and senators, will pay off. Our supporters will have to work to get additional support from other representatives and senators.

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Friday, July 2, 2010

Cosponsor 53 Joins HR 3101!


HR 3101 just got its 53rd cosponsor!

Let us welcome Democratic Representative William Lacy Clay (MO-1)!

Democrats - 51, Republicans - 2

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Thursday, July 1, 2010

From $10 Million to Zero...for Deaf-Blind People!

Today the National Association of the Deaf posted about the markup of HR 3101. One sentence caught our eye:

For example, advocacy efforts will be needed to recover the section in H.R. 3101 which provided funding for specialized communications equipment needed by people who are deaf-blind, such as refreshable Braille devices. That section was not included in the new H.R. 3101.

What? This means that there is now NOTHING in HR 3101 for deaf-blind people. Before, there was something:

(3) ANNUAL AMOUNT- The total amount of universal service support that may be obligated or expended under this subsection for any fiscal year may not exceed $10,000,000

To see for yourself the difference(s), compare Old_HR3101.pdf and New_HR3101.pdf (both are on the blogroll).

How much does a refreshable Braille device cost? We checked the manufacturers' websites. On the HumanWare site, we found products, but no prices. Customers have to contact the company to get prices. There was a price on the site of Freedom Scientific: almost $4,000. On, there was an Alva braille display costing "only" about $6,300. The least expensive one we found was the Seika braille display, costing about $2,500.

If you are deaf-blind, it is not too late. The bill has another markup to go through before it reaches the full House floor. If the deaf-blind community wants to get this provision restored in the final version of HR 3101, it has to get active and put pressure on Energy and Commerce Committee members.

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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

HR3101 Forwarded to Full Committee!

Caption Action 2 just watched the webcast of HR3101's markup. There were some amendments proposed and it has been forwarded to the full committee.

Subcommittee Markup of H.R. 3101, the “Twenty-first Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2009

The page also has the video in downloadable format as well as the opening statements and the amendments.

Multichannel News published a detailed news report on the markup.

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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Moving Forward! Markup Time!

Today the news came in the afternoon: HR 3101 has a markup session tomorrow (June 30, 2010) at 2:00 pm in the House subcommittee! Like the hearing, it is going to be streamed live online with captions. Caption Action 2 will not be attending, but the Coalition of Organizations for Accessible Technology will be there to represent the interests of the deaf and blind communities.

What is a markup? According to Wikipedia, a markup is a process of amending legislation. Each piece of the bill is read, and subcommittee members can offer amendments (suggested changes). There can be some debate. No changes are actually made to the bill, but they do vote on the suggested changes. Finally, there is a vote to move the bill out of the subcommittee.

Catch the markup - during and after - on the Subcommittee website. If you live in metro DC, you can also go in person - the markup session is being held in Rayburn 2123.

What happens next? As already stated, there is a vote on whether to move the bill out of the subcommittee. If you watch the markup session, you will see the results of that vote, live! Then, the full committee (Energy and Commerce) has to have its own markup session, AND a vote on whether to move the bill to the full House! If and when the bill moves to the full House, that is when the support of cosponsors is going to become very, very important - those cosponsors will be the bill's defenders on the House floor!

HR 3101 is moving forward! We're not home free yet, but we are moving! No word on when there will be a markup for S 3304, the senate version, but that is bound to happen soon too!

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Saturday, June 26, 2010

Caption Action 2 Is One Year Old!

Caption Action 2 just turned a year old! But, we don't want to grow up!

Starting with just one member early in the morning of June 25, 2009, we have grown to over 14,000 deaf and blind people, family, and friends.

What a year it has been! In one year:

* Support for HR 3101 (also a year old now!) in the House of Representatives was tripled.
* Newspaper reporters took notice, and began to write articles (such as the recently published New York Times article)
* Many bloggers, both deaf and blind, posted blogs and vlogs about HR 3101, and later, S 3304.
* Jamie managed to visit the office of every one of the 435 Representatives in Congress. Jamie even met two Representatives in person, one of whom signed on.
* We have had two hearings, one for HR 3101, and one for S 3304. The previous version of the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act didn't even get a hearing!
* We got a Senate version of HR 3101. The previous version of the bill didn't even get a Senate version.

So we have come a long way, baby! But..and this is a huge but..

Time is running out.

Congress is sensitive to events of importance. The upcoming 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act on July 26 is such an event. Passing HR 3101 and S 3304 would make Congress "look good" at a time when the media is likely to be paying more attention to people with disabilities and their issues. Indeed, during the hearings, this upcoming anniversary was frequently mentioned, a sure sign that Congress is most willing to pass our bills prior to July 26.

Lots of other issues are clamoring for Congress' attention. On Capitol Hill, it is the squeaky wheel that gets the grease! So it is very, very, very important that the nation's deaf and hard of hearing, and blind and visually impaired, their families, and their friends, bombard Congress with calls and emails before July 26.

So, let's make that one final effort to show Congress that we want equal access!

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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Operation PAH Also Means...?

Operation PAH can also stand for Parents, Associates (friends) and Hearing allies. This suggestion comes courtesy of our friends at the National Association of the Deaf. Many if not most of you have already contacted Congress, but what about your families and friends (both hearing and deaf)?

It has been nearly a full year. In fact, in just 2 more days it will be a full year since HR 3101 was introduced! Yes, we have had two hearings in recent months! But, a hearing is not equal to a vote. These bills STILL have not been moved out of subcommittee let alone to the full House or Senate floors!!

The only way this is going to happen is if we put pressure on our representatives and senators. Ask your families and friends (or is it friends and families?) to contact their own representatives and senators. It is easy! Just go to for Representatives and plug in the zip code plus 4. For Senators, go to and select the state from the drop down list.

Confirm with your family and friends that they did contact their representatives and senators! Then shoot Caption Action 2 an email ( (at) about (dot) com or a tweet (@deafnessguide) to let us know what representative or senators your family or friend called so we can increase the Operation PAH counter!

This is only the beginning of Operation PAH! Caption Action 2 will be at the National Association of the Deaf conference in Philadelphia July 6 to July 11. We won't be at the other conferences and expos this summer..we need YOU to be an ambassador for Caption Action 2 and encourage people you meet at those other conferences and expos, to contact their representatives and senators.

Our workshop at the NAD conference is called "Advocating for the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act." It will be on Thursday, July 8, 1:30-2:30 pm, in Franklin 1.

We've got to make this huge push, NOW. This it, now or never. We are down to the wire. July 26 is the 20th anniversary of the ADA and so Congress is more willing to listen between now and July 26. Congress goes on break on August 2, and after that, it will take a miracle to move these bills! Congress will be too focused on trying to keep their jobs, and in some cases, some of them have already lost their jobs!

Failure is not an option. The future of deaf babies,,,whether they sign, talk, cue, use cochlear implants, or use hearing aids, is at stake. The future of blind children, whether they use braille or voice technology, is at stake. One way or another, we have to, we must, get these bills passed!

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Monday, June 21, 2010

New York Times! And Operation PAH Begins!


Today, one of the "big boys" in mainstream media took notice of the need for more captions on the Internet: The New York Times! In his article, "On Web Video, Captions Are Coming Slowly," reporter Brian Stelter turned the spotlight on the current state of captioning online. Stelter does an admirable job of capturing the full picture: he mentions (no captions), CBS (no captions at this time), Netflix, YouTube, and even Hulu.
As online video becomes ever more popular, deaf viewers face the prospect of a partly inaccessible Internet.
- Brian Stelter, New York Times
The Coalition of Organizations for Accessible Technology (COAT) and HR 3101 are not mentioned, but Rosaline Crawford, director of the law and advocacy center for the National Association of the Deaf, is quoted. There is also a very brief mention of the S 3304 hearing.


With the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act coming up on July 26, the next few weeks are extremely critical for the deaf and blind communities. It is imperative that people call or email their Representatives and Senators. Right now, both HR 3101 and S 3304 are stuck in their respective subcommittees. Until they move out of the subcommittees, there can not be a full vote. Our best chance to get them to move the bills is right now, BEFORE July 26.

To make a real impression on Congress, we need 1,000 calls and emails made to Representatives and Senators. You heard us, 1,000! Caption Action 2 is launching Operation PAH. Why are we calling it Operation PAH? In deaf culture, the ASL idiom "PAH" means "finally, at last, success, or I did it." For the purposes of Operation PAH, the letters P-A-H stand for:


So get started making those calls and sending those emails to your Representatives and Senators! After you contact your Representative and/or Senator, take a moment and let Caption Action 2 know about it. Send us an email (see the Contact Caption Action 2 on the right side of page) , contact us through Facebook, or send Jamie a reply tweet at @deafnessguide. Tell us whose office you contacted. We will update the counter at the top and side of this page, showing how many calls and emails have been sent to Congress.

Operation PAH GOAL: 1,000!

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Friday, June 18, 2010

Advisory Shmisory. Shapiro Can Stuff the Advice!

In both Gary Shapiro's written testimony for the HR 3101 hearing and his Washington Times editorial, Gary Shapiro, president of the Consumer Electronics Association, pushed the inane idea of an advisory committee:

From the written testimony:
As an alternative, CEA has proposed the development of an advisory committee consisting of all affected stakeholders working together to develop industry-led technical solutions for IP-based video programming services and devices. After the advisory committee completes its work and develops suggested solutions, the advisory committee would then determine whether to recommend that the FCC promulgate rules to accomplish the recommended solutions. For any such requirements, the FCC would also be afforded flexibility to exempt certain Internet-based video programming services and devices.
From the Washington Times op-ed:

Dems want to redesign your iPhone
As an alternative to the new mandates, the CEA has proposed the development of an advisory committee consisting of all affected stakeholders working collaboratively to develop industry-led solutions for Internet-protocol-based video programming services and devices. This committee would determine the most feasible technical solutions, and then provide its recommendations to the FCC. This approach would see the government setting the goals, but allow the technology industry to work out the details - using engineers, not lobbyists.

"I propose we make the text bigger and the sound be able to be turned off."

By the time industry was able to implement a committee's "advice," the technology would have already been replaced many times over! Plus, this sounds like Shapiro would prefer to force disabled consumers to wait for retro-fitting of devices. Determine solutions and provide recommendations to the FCC? Make disabled consumers wait for accessibility while the FCC makes decisions, which could take quite awhile at the pace that things happen in Washington?

This concept is the biggest piece of impractical fiction to come from Shapiro and the CEA. It essentially says deaf and blind people are second class citizens who do not deserve accessibility right out of the box, but must be forced to wait!

In a competitive business, it is highly unlikely that Shapiro has "before product launch" in mind with regard to an advisory committee. Does he really expect companies to share proprietary designs with each other in the name of accessibility? We think not! No, he expects us to wait until AFTER product launch, be patient non-complainers, and show appreciation for "voluntary" efforts at accessibility. That is unfair and outright discrimination against deaf and blind people.

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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Sorry Shapiro, Voluntary Doesn't Work!

Perhaps Gary Shapiro, president of the Consumer Electronics Association, who fervently believes voluntary actions are enough, would like to answer the following questions...

Why is it, Mr. Shapiro, that after Congress passed the television decoder circuitry act, we did not get a substantial voluntary increase in closed captioning? Why is it that for six years, from 1990 to 1996, there was only a small increase in closed captioning?

If "voluntary" efforts had worked, Congress would not have had to pass the Telecommunications Act of 1996. That law made closed captioning on television mandatory.

Shapiro mentions voluntary around 56:40 in the video;

"While we share the goal of providing access to technology to all persons, our experience has taught us that voluntary multi-stakeholder, open, due process standard setting efforts are a better way to go than simply mandating every function of every product be accessible to people with every type of disability. To put it simply, mandating universal design is an innovation killer. Innovation leads to accessibility, not the other way around."
Industry has proven through failures such as what happened from 1990 to 1996, that it can not be relied upon to do the right thing voluntarily.

Want another example of industry failure to do the right thing? Web video has been around since at least 1999. As far back as 1999 we deaf and hard of hearing were being left out of the new world of Internet video.

If voluntary actions were enough, and if industry could be counted on to do the right thing, industry would have held off on launching Internet video until it could have found solutions to have captions on said video. Instead, industry rushed to launch video on the web, and deaf and hard of hearing people and their needs be damned.

One more example. When portable DVD players were introduced to the market, we bought one. Only to discover that it was not capable of displaying closed captions on its seven inch screen.

Another example - when national mobile digital TV services like FloTV and MobiTV launched, there was no captioning.

See Flo TV Super Bowl Ad? Flo TV Doesn't Caption!

Flo TV Can't Commit to Captioning!

MobiTV Does Not Caption Either...

This is what we are trying to put an end to through HR 3101...the CONSTANT rush to "market" or "internet" without taking into consideration that a sizable audience is being left out right from the start! Leaving us out prior to product launch means we are considered second class citizens!

So sorry, Mr. Shapiro, your beloved mantra of "Voluntary is the way to go!" is a big fat lie!!

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Sunday, June 13, 2010

Boucher a Victim of Misinformation?

Politicians do not write their own speeches. Thus, Representative Rick Boucher, chairperson of the House Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet, may have been a victim of misinformation provided by his scriptwriter. During his introduction to the HR 3101 hearing, Boucher made an apparently incorrect statement...

What happened? Between roughly 10:30 and 11:35 on the hearing video (Download or Stream), Boucher talks about the steps that industry is already taking to make services and devices accessible to the hearing and vision impaired. As an example, he cites Disney and CBS as already captioning online. But, one problem with that! CBS does not seem to be captioning online at all!

The text, as seen on the video captions:
We will learn this morning about the steps that industry is already taking to make services and devices accessible by the vision or hearing impaired. For example, my iphone can be made accessible to the visually impaired straight out of the box with the touch of an existing button. With the rapid growth of smart phones, increasing number of Americans can download inexpensive third-party applications that perform functions like text to speech and speech to text. In the video programming arena, an increasing amount of video content is now available on the Internet in a closed captioned format, including the video programming of Disney, CBS, noncommercial station WGBH and videos on YouTube. CBS offers video description of its television programming notwithstanding the absence of any legal requirement that it do so.
Caption Action 2 contacted Boucher's office to make them aware that CBS is not captioning online. Boucher' s office wrote back to say that they would look into it. At the same time, Caption Action 2 double-checked by going to and tried to find a captioned video - nothing!! We tried two different browsers, thinking that maybe the captioning button would not display in Firefox but might display in Internet Explorer. Nothing.

If Boucher's office does investigate, and finds that there is indeed no captioning on CBS online, we will have proven a point about the need for HR 3101! Again, we wish to emphasize that Rick Boucher is not to blame for this misinformation; politicians do not write their own speeches. Someone else who did not do their homework properly, wrote that speech for Boucher.

Update: Boucher's office wrote back when questioned about CBS. He was supposed to have said

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Friday, June 11, 2010

HR 3101 Gets Cosponsor 52!


The dust hasn't quite settled from yesterday's flurry of two new cosponsor announcements. We've got our 52nd cosponsor!

Emerging from the dust comes New York Representative Yvette Clark (D-11).

Democrats - 50, Republicans - 2

We're on a roll! Keep contacting your representatives!

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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Shapiro's Words Belong Where the Sun Don't Shine

Today at the HR 3101 hearing, the speaker most opposed to the bill was Gary Shapiro (, the president of the Consumer Electronics Association. Most of the media coverage focused on Shapiro. Although speakers Sergeant Jesse Acosta (American Council of the Blind) and Lise Hamlin (Hearing Loss Association of America) made some powerful statements, they were either barely mentioned or not mentioned at all, by the media.

Mr. Shapiro made so many wrong statements that it would be difficult to address them all in just one blog post. This is the first of a series of blog posts examining - actually, tearing apart - Mr. Shapiro's words. Let's begin with what he said regarding "undue burden," as quoted in Broadcasting and Cable:
These technologies have a shelf life of two or three years at the max and you have to respond quickly. This would put a choke collar on innovation.
Mr. Shapiro, that is actually why we need HR 3101! If technology keeps changing at breakneck speed, without requiring accessibility to be built-in, deaf, hard of hearing, and blind people will be left out again, and again, and again!

A friend who saw that statement by Mr. Shapiro sarcastically told Caption Action 2, "Why build elevators or ramps for handicapped? The building only might be there for 50 years."

Furthermore, requiring accessibility will not stifle innovation. If companies want to make money, they will keep innovating! Did requiring the closed caption decoder chip in all television screens 13 inches or larger stifle innovation in the television industry? We think not!

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Oops! No, It is Now 51 Cosponsors!


Turns out that Representative Anna Eshoo (D-CA) also just signed on to HR 3101! Since her name has already been added to the bill while Representative Matsui's is still awaiting addition (Matsui announced her support via a press release that was distributed at today's HR 3101 hearing), that means Eshoo is the real 50th cosponsor! Like Matsui, Eshoo is on the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet!

Now we have support from three members of the subcommittee, aside from sponsor Representative Ed Markey!

Democrats - 49 Republicans - 2

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We Got Our 50th Cosponsor!


That's how many cosponsors we now have!

Caption Action 2 just got the exciting news today! We just had our FIFTIETH, count them, 50th, HR 3101 cosponsor!

It's none other than Representative Doris Matsui (D-CA-5), member of the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet!

Democrats - 48, Republicans - 2
Update: From Matsui's press release;

"As we continue our efforts to expand broadband access to more and more Americans, disabled Americans must not be left behind. Every American - including those who are disabled - requires access to updated technologies for personal use, to compete for a job, and to be able to communicate and work in a sound environment.

"We are seeing a greater need to assist a number of our service members who are returning from the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan disabled and are seeing to return to some sense of normalcy. Access to modern technology will help them achieve that.

"Disabled Americans should have access to the same communications products and services that everyone else does.

" I applaud my good friend Congressman Markey for his leadership on providing greater technological access to disabled individuals. His legislation, HR 3101, would help ensure that the disabled are able to fully access and utilize broadband services and video programming devices.

"I plan to add my name today as a cosponsor of this important legislation.

"We must modernize technologies to make certain that disabled Americans are able to enjoy the benefits of an increasingly diverse and innovative menu of applications and services. It is my hope that all stakeholders continue to work together to advance this legislation in an expedited fashion."

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Friday, June 4, 2010


A GIANT STEP FORWARD IS TAKING PLACE! On Thursday, June 10, 2010 there will be a hearing in the House on HR 3101, the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act!

Time: 10:00 am
Place: 2123 Rayburn House Office Building
Online live video captioning: Yes! We do not have the exact URL yet, but it most likely can be accessed via the House Subcommittee Hearings page: - They will be updating this page soon.

Read more;


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Thursday, June 3, 2010

Caption Action 2: June 2010 Newsletter

This is the Caption Action 2 newsletter for June 2010. We have so much this month we hardly know where to begin!

For starters, Caption Action 2 is one year old this month! We began early in the morning of June 25, 2009. So is HR 3101, the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act, which was introduced on June 26, 2009!

Read more;

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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

HR 3101 Gets Two More Cosponsors!

Earlier today, Caption Action 2 found that two more HR 3101 cosponsors joined the listing. Let us welcome Representatives Gerald Connolly (VA-11) (our own representative!) and Nita Lowey (NY-18). Both Reps are Democrats.

Democrats - 47, Republicans - 2

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Saturday, May 22, 2010

Major Milestone: Senate Hearing!

Less than a month after it was introduced, S 3304, the Equal Access to 21st Century Communications Act, is getting a hearing in the Senate! The hearing will be held Wednesday, May 26, 2010 at 2:30 pm in the Russell Building, room 253. Why are we getting a hearing so soon when it has been almost a year since the introduction of the House bill HR 3101? Answer: the Senate bill is cosponsored by the subcommittee chairman, John Kerry!

Link: US Senate Hearing on S.3304-H.R.3101 Issues Set for Wed May 26, 2:30 PM Russell Building Room 253

It really makes a huge difference when the bill is supported by the chairman. S 3304 has only three cosponsors, whereas HR 3101 has 47! The number of cosponsors is not what matters in terms of determining whether a bill gets a hearing; support from the chairman and other members of the subcommittee are what matter! In fact, Mr. Kerry said (in part):

no one should be or has to be excluded from modern communications and the new economy because of a disability

So things are looking good in the Senate! This is a very big deal; most bills do not even make it to the point of getting a hearing. The (hearing) media has been contacted, and hopefully someone will cover the hearing.

What will happen next? Caption Action 2 checked with someone more familiar with politics than Caption Action 2 (we are advocates, not politicians!) and we were told that the bill could get reported out of the Subcommittee to the full committee. There would not be another hearing, but the full committee could vote. Then it could go to the full Senate for a vote - but that depends on the Senate Majority Leader, in this case Senator Harry Reid.

Again, we are doing good in the Senate so far! However, we still have a problem in the House with subcommittee chairman Rick Boucher not moving the bill to the floor for a hearing. Almost 50 cosponsors including one on the subcommittee itself, and Boucher still has not moved it. The hope is that passage in the Senate will send a strong message to the House.

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Is Your Cable Company Preventing Our Success?

Is your cable company resisting HR 3101 and S 3304? Maybe, if what Caption Action 2 was told by Senator Bill Nelson's office is any indication! When CA 2 told Nelson's office (Clint Odom) that we are seeking cosponsors for S 3304, the Equal Access to 21st Century Communications Act, this was the response:

Odom: I think Sen. Nelson would like to support a consensus bill like the one that was worked out in the House. I understand there are still some very important stakeholders who have not yet come to the table.

I think everyone wants to see this bill enacted.

CA 2: Do you know who these stakeholders are that have not yet come to the table? I don't mean general stakeholders like "television industry" or"cell phone manufacturers," but more specific like "CBS TV" or "XYZ Phone."

Odom: For instance, where has Comcast, Time Warner, and Charter Communications been in the process?

This is the first time Caption Action 2 has gotten specific names. Up until now, it has only been the industry organizations, as in this COAT report on meeting with industry representatives. What does this mean? Was Odom just throwing out names, or was he implying that Comcast, Time Warner, and Charter Communications actually are resisting HR 3101 and S 3304?

We don't know. But if we were to find out that our own cable service was hampering the passage of HR 3101/S 3304, we would be quite upset to say the least. Industry associations like the National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA) are one thing, it is another when it is your own cable company!

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Friday, May 14, 2010

Adapt Shmapt. Here's a Comeback!

Someone forwarded us a copy of a response they received from their Senator's office after writing her to ask for cosponsorship of S 3304, the Equal Access to 21st Century Communications Act. This is what Senator Amy Klobuchar's office wrote:
Thank you for contacting me about the Equal Access to 21st Century Communications Act. I appreciate hearing from you on this particular piece of legislation.

As you may know, S. 3304 would require technology companies, phone manufacturers and Web vendors to adapt their products to deaf or blind customers. It was introduced in the Senate on May 4, 2010, and referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. I will keep your comments in mind should this or related legislation come before the full Senate for a vote.
Jamie was so disgusted that she called Klobuchar's office and got the name of the staff person who handles S. 3304. Then she shot an email to that person stating:
There is one problem with that statement. If a product needs to be adapted for deaf, hard of hearing, and blind people, that means it was not accessible in the first place! That's why we need this bill - so that products will be accessible to begin with.
Less than an hour later, Daniel Schill ( responded, asking for any materials on S 3304 that he could share with Senator Klobuchar.

So keep this comeback in mind if you get a letter from your Senator (or Representative - we are still working to get HR 3101 passed!) talking about how the bill(s) would require companies to adapt their products.

Update: Klobuchar attended the Senate hearing on S 3304/HR 3101, held May 26. If you watch the video, she appears near the end.

Link: History on Capitol Hill: Senate Hearing on S 3304/HR 3101

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Monday, May 10, 2010

Do VOIP Services Have to Pay Into TRS? Yes and No!

Caption Action 2 was both right and wrong about Voice Over IP (VOIP) services not having to pay into the Telecommunications Relay Services (TRS) fund. Here is why, and what we learned after consulting with both the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) and the National Exchange Carrier Association, Inc. (NECA), as well as doing some additional research. The information in this post is very important because it affects the health of the TRS fund!

Two Kinds of VOIP

Interconnected VOIP

Turns out there are two different kinds of VOIP. The first kind is Interconnected VOIP. It is called Interconnected because it "touches" the regular telephone network (public switched telephone network). Someone who uses an Interconnected VOIP provider like Vonage can call any number. A more formal definition of Interconnected VOIP Service can be found in 47 CFR 9.3:

Interconnected VoIP service. An interconnected Voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) service is a service that:
(1) Enables real-time, two-way voice communications;
(2) Requires a broadband connection from the user's location;
(3) Requires Internet protocol-compatible customer premises equipment (CPE); and
(4) Permits users generally to receive calls that originate on the public switched telephone network and to terminate calls to the public switched telephone network.

Non-Interconnected VOIP Service

The other kind of VOIP, non-interconnected VOIP, is called that because it never "touches" the public switched telephone network. HR 3101 defines non-interconnected VOIP as:
‘(56) NON-INTERCONNECTED VOIP SERVICE- The term ‘non-interconnected VoIP service’--
‘(A) means a service that--
‘(i) enables real-time voice communications that originate from or terminate to the user’s location using Internet protocol or any successor protocol; and
‘(ii) requires Internet protocol compatible customer premises equipment; and
‘(B) does not include any service that is an interconnected VoIP service.
Why We Were Wrong

We thought that all VOIP services did not have to pay into the TRS fund. According to the NAD, that was true at the time HR 3101 was introduced. In fact, the Coalition of Organizations for Accessible Technology had produced a position statement that warned of the threat to the TRS fund if VOIP services did not have to pay into the TRS fund. However, according to the NAD, after HR 3101 was introduced, the FCC recognized the risks to the fund and used its authority to require Interconnected VOIP to pay into the TRS fund.

This was confirmed by Jill Cardoso of NECA, who pointed Caption Action 2 to a PDF file, a Telecommunications Reporting Worksheet. In that file, we found this language: "Section 64.604 requires that every common carrier and interconnected VoIP provider contribute to the Telecommunications Relay Services (TRS) Fund on the basis of its relative share of interstate end-user telecommunications revenues..."

Why We Were Right

Although Interconnected VOIP is indeed required to contribute to the TRS fund, Non-Interconnected VOIP like Skype, is NOT required to contribute. This was confirmed by the NAD.

Hey! That's Not Fair!

HR 3101 has language that would require BOTH interconnected AND non-interconnected VOIP to contribute to the TRS fund, as follows:
Within one year after the date of enactment of the Twenty-first Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2009, each interconnected VoIP service provider and each provider of non-interconnected VoIP service shall participate in and contribute to the Telecommunications Relay Services Fund established in section 64.404(c)(5)(iii) of the Commission’s regulations (47 C.F.R. 64.404(c)(5)(iii)), as in effect on the date of enactment of such Act, in a manner prescribed by the Commission by regulation to provide for obligations of such providers that are consistent with and comparable to the obligations of other contributors to such Fund.’’

However, S. 3304 does NOT require both interconnected and non-interconnected VOIP to contribute to the TRS fund - ONLY interconnected.
‘Within 1 year after the date of enactment of the Equal Access to 21st Century Communications Act, each interconnected VoIP service provider shall participate in and contribute to the Telecommunications Relay Services Fund established in section 64.404(c)(5)(iii) of the Commission’s regulations (47 C.F.R. 64.404(c)(5)(iii)) as in effect on the date of enactment of such Act, in a manner prescribed by the Commission by regulation to provide for obligations of such providers that are consistent with and comparable to the obligations of other contributors to the Fund.

Will This Impact the TRS Fund?

Will the fact non-interconnected VOIP does not have to pay into the TRS fund, hurt the TRS fund? Maybe! Caption Action 2 went back to Jill Cardoso to ask her if the TRS fund was seeing any reduction. Her answer was "We will have to wait and see once we start billing the new Fund year in July. " In the meantime, she suggested we compare the data in the April 30, 2010 NECA filing on to the previous year's NECA filing.

The filing contains multiple Exhibits. The exhibits seem to present a variety of possible scenarios for the TRS fund's health. In each exhibit, the total collections for 2008 is 776,075,728. The total collections for 2009 is 850,161,288. This shows an increase, yes, but read on...

Exhibit 3-8a :

The projected total for 2010 is 765,445,973 - a DECREASE of about $85 million from 2009.

The projected collections for 2011 through June 2011 is only 287,904,061.

Exhibit 3-8b:

Projected 2010 total: 688,711,873 - a DECREASE of about $161 million.

Projected total through June 2011: 222,874,238

Exhibit 3-8c:

Projected 2010 total: 670,429,101 - a DECREASE of about $179 million.
Projected total through June 2011: 207,380,145

Exhibit 3-8d:

Projected 2010 total: 593,695,001 - DECREASE of about $257 million
Projected total through June 2011: 142,350,323

So What Does All this Mean?

Unless the law is updated, non-Interconnected VOIP will continue to be exempt from having to pay into the TRS fund. If both HR 3101 and S 3304 pass, Congress will have to work on reconciling the two bills, and hopefully the reconciled version would apply to both types of VOIP services.

But in the meantime, every time that someone chooses to use a non-interconnected VOIP service like Skype as their sole means of telephone communications, the TRS fund loses a source of funds.

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