Earlier today the FCC's Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau released a Public Notice seeking comment on a broad range of topics related to the implementation of Section 105 of the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (Accessibility Act, copy available here).  Section 105 of the Accessibility Act requires the Commission to adopt rules defining the program eligibility standards for relay service support for the distribution of "specialized customer premises equipment designed to make telecommunications service, Internet access service, and advanced communications, including interexchange services and advanced telecommunications and information services, accessible by individuals who are deaf-blind."  The Public Notice specifically seeks comment on implementing the National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program (Program).

The issues for which the FCC seeks comments are broad, but generally include the following topics:

  • Eligibility of deaf-blind individuals, including
    • The range of disabilities that fall within the definition of "deaf-blind";
    • The degree of hearing or vision loss required; and
    • Factors to consider in determining "low income," including relative disability expenses.
  • Equipment necessary to access telecommunications, Internet access, and advanced communications services, including
    • The availability of specialized equipment at retail;
    • Possible funding for the development of specialized equipment;
    • Whether equipment distributed under the Program may include mainstream equipment used with specialized equipment;
    • The lifespan of specialized equipment; and
    • Research and development of specialized equipment.
  • State equipment distribution programs, including
    • Information and data regarding the effectiveness of these programs;
    • Utilization of state programs to facilitate equipment distribution under the Program; and
    • Funding for equipment distribution within current TRS Fund structure.
  • Logistics and criteria for funding, including
    • Appropriate approval process and eligibility requirements;
    • Modeling equipment distribution after Universal Service framework (eg, state or federal criteria for eligibility, certification and verification); and
    • Provision of ongoing technical or other support under Program;
  • Oversight and recordkeeping to ensure effective and efficient use of funds.

Comments are due November 17, 2010.  Reply comments are due November 23.