Video Conferencing with Disabilities, House Bill Promoting U.S. Electronics, Wi-Fi Lags in Homes

Video conference platforms would need to follow Americans with Disabilities Act requirements under the Communications Act

Video Conferencing with Disabilities, House Bill Promoting U.S. Electronics, Wi-Fi Lags in Homes
Photo of Rep. Blake Moore, R-Utah

May 17, 2023 – The head of the Federal Communications Commission said Tuesday that she is proposing to require video conferencing platforms to follow accessibility requirements under the Communications Act.

The proposal by Jessica Rosenworcel would require platforms like Microsoft Teams, WebEx, and Zoom to incorporate accessibility measures such as text-to-speech capabilities, speech-to-text (captioning) capabilities, and allowing the use of American Sign Language (ASL) interpreting.

“The pandemic taught us all the value of video conferencing—to stay connected, to get work done, to stay in touch with our doctors, and much more,” Rosenworcel said. “But for many people with disabilities, making effective use of these platforms continues to be a challenge. Today, I’ve proposed taking a bold step in ensuring that video conferencing platforms are usable by all who rely on them to stay connected to their family, friends, co-workers, and community.”

Legislation that outlined similar measures was introduced in the last Congress by Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., and Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif.

“People with disabilities deserve equal access to the tools and technologies that define life in the 21st century – and that includes video conferencing,” Markey and Eshoo said in a statement. “Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, video conferencing has become increasingly essential for work, education, and healthcare, but many video conferencing services fall short for people with disabilities, leaving them disconnected.

“We applaud Chairwoman Rosenworcel for her leadership and look forward to working with the FCC to ensure people with disabilities have full access to video conferencing platforms and other important services.”

The proposed rulemaking will go to the rest of the commission for a vote. If pushed forward, it will go to the public for comment.

Lawmakers introduce legislation to incentivize domestic electronics manufacturing

Lawmakers introduced legislation in the House on Thursday for a bill that would incentivize American companies to reshore the production of printed circuit boards through a tax credit and financial assistance program.

The Protecting Circuit Boards and Substrates Act, introduced by Reps. Blake Moore, R-Utah, and Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., would incentivize domestic manufacturing of PCBs through a financial assistance program modeled after the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022, which allocated $52 billion dollars to domestic semiconductor manufacturing. It also issues a 25 percent tax credit for organizations that purchase PCB produced in America.

“Printed circuit boards (PCBs) are critical components of almost every piece of electronics used today,” said a statement on the bill’s introduction. “However, over the past two decades, a vast majority of PCB manufacturing has moved offshore, making PCBs vulnerable to tampering by foreign adversaries, and only 4% of PCBs are manufactured in the United States.

“If we want to ensure technological superiority across the global stage and strengthen national security, we need to bring PCB production back to America, which is exactly what my bipartisan bill does,” stated Eshoo.

Wi-Fi still behind hard wire connections in the home

Ookla data show that Wi-Fi performance still falls behind hard-wired ethernet connections within broadband networks in the home, “with Wi-Fi speeds typically ranging from between 30-40% of ethernet speeds during Q1 2023.”

Internet Service Providers are constantly searching for ways to offer more advanced Wi-Fi networks, routers, and solutions, Ookla said. The adoption of new Wi-Fi routers has already helped narrow the gap between Wi-Fi and ethernet speeds in many countries during the previous year, but in other countries such as Taiwan and the U.K., the opposite is true, meaning that alternative – more advanced Wi-Fi technologies such as Wi-Fi 6 and 6E – are necessary, the data company said.

The older Wi-Fi 4G and 5G networks remain the dominant generations of Wi-Fi globally. According to Ookla’s Speedtest Intellegence data, as of February of this year, Wi-Fi 6 represents just 9.6 percent of shares of Wi-Fi samples around the world, with Asian markets in the lead.

Hong Kong and China recorded a 42 percent adoption of Wi-Fi 6, Singapore recorded an adoption of 37 percent, and North America follows with the U.S. recording 32 percent and Canada recording 30 percent. European fixed markets are further behind with the U.K. at a 13 percent adoption rate.

ASUS has lead the market for providing Wi-Fi 6/6E routers, being 39 percent of the Wi-Fi 6/6E routers sampled by Speedtest Intelligence. Other leading router producers along with ASUS have slowly begun to release Wi-Fi generation 7 routers, but many ISPs and large smartphone vendors such as Apple and Samsung are against this immediate jump to Wi-Fi 7 due to China’s “lack of assignment of 6 GHz spectrum for unlicensed use in China.”

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