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On January 18, 2011, the FCC's Enforcement Bureau entered into a Consent Decree (voluntary agreement) with Comcast to resolve investigations that the Bureau had conducted in response to complaints brought against Comcast. Those complaints had alleged that Comcast's set top boxes (used for watching television) did not pass through closed captioning. Specifically, the complaints said that Comcast violated section 79.1(c) of the Commission's closed captioning regulations, which requires the pass-through of captions on television shows to viewers.

The Consent Decree ends the investigations and spells out the following things that Comcast has agreed to do for the next two years to ensure that its set top boxes pass through closed captions:

  • Within 120 days, Comcast will start reviewing its procedures for testing the set top boxes used by its customers to make sure that the boxes pass through closed captions.
  • Within 60 days after this review, Comcast will revise its testing procedures and test its set top boxes, including set top boxes already in customers' homes, to make sure the equipment passes through captions.
  • If Comcast finds that its set top boxes are not passing through closed captions, it must notify the Enforcement Bureau within 30 days (this does not apply to isolated situations where one customer's set top box is having problems passing through the captions).
  • Comcast will regularly monitor its testing procedures and modify them as needed for the next 2 years
  • Comcast must send reports to the Enforcement Bureau in  anuary 2012 and in January 2013 to show that they are complying with the Consent Decree.
  • Comcast will also make a voluntary $500,000 contribution to the United States Treasury.

Here is the rule that was the subject of the above Comcast complaints:

47 CFR §79.1(c) Obligation to pass through captions of already captioned programs. All video programming distributors shall deliver all programming received from the video programming owner or other origination source containing closed captioning to receiving television households with the original closed captioning data intact in a format that can be recovered and displayed by decoders meeting the standards of part 15 of this chapter unless such programming is recaptioned or the captions are reformatted by the programming distributor.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018