Promoting Access to and Inclusiveness of Communications
Transition from TTY to Real-Time Text Technology, FCC Docket No. 16-145. Supporting 911 accessibility for people with communications disabilities.
The clinic filed reply comments and ex parte letters on behalf of Telecommunications for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Inc. (TDI). In June 2020, days before the compliance deadline, smaller carriers requested an effectively indefinite extension for implementing RTT technology—despite having years to do so. The clinic filed a reply comment requesting the FCC enforce its 2016 order mandating the transition from TTY to Real-Time Text Technology and emphasizing that under no circumstances should the FCC grant an indefinite extension. The clinic met with the FCC and stressed that the unavailability of accessible and easy-to-use RTT-to-9-1-1 is an emergency-level problem calling for an urgent solution. The clinic also filed an ex parte letter arguing that the true reason for these carriers’ noncompliance is poor planning, and that the carriers have not justified the need for an indefinite extension.
FCC v. Prometheus Radio Project, S. Ct. No. 19-1231, 19-1241. Appeal of Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) order eliminating and relaxing limits on common ownership of local broadcast stations.
Representing Prometheus Radio Project and other public interest organizations, the clinic has successfully challenged FCC decisions to relax broadcast ownership limits dating back to 2004. Most recently, in December 2017, the FCC granted reconsideration of its prior decision in the 2014 Quadrennial Review that ownership rules remained necessary in the public interest. The reconsideration order eliminated the newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership and radio/television cross-ownership rules and substantially relaxed the local television ownership rules.
In January 2018, the clinic filed an Emergency Petition for a Writ of Mandamus asking the court to stay the effect of the new decision until the court had reviewed the FCC’s decisions. The court denied mandamus but stayed the appeals until August 2018 to give the FCC the opportunity to adopt an “incubator” program that the FCC believed would diversify station ownership. In August 2018, the FCC adopted an incubator program.
In September 2019, the Third Circuit vacated the reconsideration and incubator orders as arbitrary and capricious because the agency had not adequately analyzed the potential effect of the regulatory changes on female and minority ownership of broadcast stations. The FCC and the National Association of Broadcasters, along with other industry groups, filed petitions for a writ of certiorari. The Supreme Court granted both petitions were in October 2020 and consolidated the cases. The clinic supported the research and writing efforts for Prometheus Radio Project’s respondent brief. Oral arguments are set for January 2021.
Closed Captioning of Internet Protocol-Delivered Video Programming, FCC Docket No. 11-154. Challenge to streaming video service seeking a waiver of closed captioning rules.
The clinic filed reply comments and ex parte letters on behalf of Telecommunications for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Inc. (TDI), opposing a motion by streaming TV company Pluto TV to waive FCC rules on closed captioning. Pluto TV was not in full compliance with rules requiring it to provide or pass through captions on content originally shown on television on several platforms where it provided an app, and requested extensions of one to three years to address technical issues preventing it from doing so. The clinic filed comments opposing Pluto’s petition, arguing that the company had not provided enough information to the Commission for it to properly evaluate the company’s claims. After meetings with Pluto and the FCC, Pluto requested that the FCC suspend consideration of its petition. In September 2021, the FCC entered into a $3.5 million consent decree with Pluto TV and its parent ViacomCBS to address Pluto TV’s closed captioning rule violations.