Monday, June 17, 2024

AR-Sen: Pryor Communications Bill — Right Idea, Wrong Time

I have bemoaned Arkansas’s lack of internet access (note: those numbers are from 2007) many times.  Only Mississippi and Alabama are worse than Arkansas in terms of percentage of the population with some kind of internet access, be it dial-up or broadband, at home or elsewhere.

Yet, oddly, rather than address this bigger issue first, Senator Pryor introduced the Equal Access To 21st Century Communications Act yesterday.  In short, this bill would require most providers of online video content to provide closed captioning for those videos in much the same way as is required on television.

“Right now there is not a requirement for closed captioning on the Internet, although when a program is broadcast over the air or on cable there is a requirement,” Pryor said. “We’re seeing more and more programming go to the Internet, and it would seem to me it’s very sensible that that closed captioning should follow the programming onto the Internet.”

That sounds logical, until you consider that less than 4% of the Arkansas population has a hearing disability.  Throw in a certain amount of non-disabled people who still have poor hearing, and you still don’t have a large chunk of the population.  Point being, Senator Pryor was well-intentioned here, but he has put the cart way before the horse in this instance.  Let’s get all Arkansans’ access to the internet (preferably in broadband form), then we can focus on the micro aspects of internet usage.

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