Lawmakers begin push to extend Internet services to disabled

“Delay is unacceptable,” said Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), who introduced the bill in the House and testified before the Kerry’s Senate Commerce communications subcommittee on Wednesday.

Markey said 40 percent of those who do not have broadband Internet have a disability, reflecting the need to update laws to ensure all people have access to new technologies.

Quick passage could be a challenge, given industry concerns about parts of the bill.

Walter McCormick, the president of US Telecom, pointed to definitions in the House and Senate bills he saw as problematic. Others have raised questions about the cost of implementing the bill.

Markey pushed back against some of those arguments Wednesday, saying the cost of closed-captioning was overestimated by 20-fold when this service was first mandated for television.

The bills would bring the two-decade-old Americans with Disabilities Act in line with new technologies, such as ensuring that closed captioning is available for online video.

The effort to change the disabilities law could also give a preview of upcoming battles over a wider communications law revamp, Kerry said, providing “an interesting case study for how [stakeholders] are going to approach” the process.