Federal Communications Commission

Public Notice Seeks Comment on Ensuring Accessible and Affordable Broadband for People with Disabilities

September 18th, 2009 by Elizabeth Lyle - Special Counsel for Innovation, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau

Elizabeth Lyle BBToday we released a Public Notice, or PN, asking for recommendations to ensure that broadband technologies are accessible and affordable to people with disabilities.  The large number of questions in the PN makes it clear that we have a lot to do if we are going to formulate meaningful policy.  There are numerous, complex issues to discuss and distill in the coming months, and it is critical that we work collaboratively with all stakeholders to get this right.  Here is how you can help:

  • Help us plan the structure and substance of our upcoming workshop on Oct. 20. We invite suggestions on panel topics, exhibits, speakers and additional questions.  We also welcome your ideas for background material that may be helpful for us and all those participating in the workshop.  Our goal is to use the workshop time as effectively as possible to help us formulate policy recommendations.  You can give us your input by filing comments in the FCC's Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS) by using either ECFS Express or our standard submission page if you need to attach a file.  Please note in your comments that they are responding to NBP Public Notice #4 or in response to a blog that we will be posting for each panel in Blogband (see more details below).  The sooner you file your suggestions, the better.
  • Respond to questions in the PN by October 6. Before we can make policy recommendations, we have to understand better the accessibility and affordability barriers faced by people with disabilities; the technological barriers and solutions; the potential of broadband to advance certain national purposes (related, for example, to health care, education, public safety, job creation/worker training, and civic participation/community development) for people with disabilities; resources existing at the federal, state, local, and tribal level that we can leverage to make broadband accessible and affordable to people with disabilities; and the effectiveness of regulatory and non-regulatory mechanisms in promoting accessibility and affordability for people with disabilities.  To the extent that commenters are able to help us gather information in advance of the workshop, we can both build on this information and narrow the focus of the workshop accordingly.  We would also appreciate your help in identifying commenters who may be expert at certain issues (e.g., on barriers faced by those who have intellectual disabilities) who have not participated in this proceeding (or perhaps any other FCC proceeding) to date.  File comments as described above, and once again, please mark your submission as responsive to NBP Public Notice #4.
  • Participate in the new disability access policy blog.  As mentioned above, we are establishing a "disabilities access" category on Blogband where we will post five different blog posts to track the tentative panels that we propose for our workshop.  That is, we will have posts (and ongoing threads) on (1) Accessibility and Affordability Barriers Faced by People with Disabilities; (2) Technological Barriers and Solutions; (3) Furthering National Purposes and People with Disabilities; (4) Federal, State, and Local Resources to Make Broadband Accessible and Affordable to People with Disabilities; and (5) Policy Solutions and Recommendations.  The posts will cover the same kinds of questions that are set forth in the PN.  We know that many of the issues that we raise would benefit from having an ongoing, iterative process in which we could collaborate on these issues before and after the workshop.  We also will post new blog posts when we want to focus on a particular topic in more detail.  And, as noted above, we also invite comments relating to workshop planning in response to these posts.  Finally, if you want to initiate an idea not covered in the blog posts, we encourage you to do so by going to and clicking on accessibility for people with disabilities.

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