The Commission Also Seeks Comment on Additional Anti-Robocall Measures
During its monthly meeting on May 18, 2023, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC or Commission) adopted a Seventh Report and Order (Order) extending specific existing robocall rules to all voice providers and requiring carriers to update their Robocall Mitigation Database (RMD) filings consistent with its new rules. These new requirements will become effective 180 days after the Order is published in the Federal Register or 30 days after their approval by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), whichever is later.
In a related Eighth Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FNPRM) and Third Notice of Inquiry (NOI), the FCC sought comment on additional measures to combat robocalls calls. Comments on the FNPRM and NOI are due 30 days after they have been published in the Federal Register, with replies due 30 days after the comment filing deadline.
Three Robocall Rules Applicable Only to Gateway Providers Now Extending to All Voice Providers
Under the existing robocall rules, United States-based voice providers that receive calls directly from foreign providers and transmit those calls to other US providers (known as “gateway” providers) must adhere to certain requirements that are stricter than those applicable to other voice providers.
In its recent Order, the FCC extended three of these stricter requirements to all voice providers in the following manner:
- Currently, non-gateway voice providers must respond “fully and in a timely manner” to requests from the FCC and law enforcement to trace the call path back to the origin of the call (known as “traceback”). The Order changes this timeframe to a 24-hour period and requires each provider to update its RMD filing to include a statement certifying that the provider commits to responding “fully and within 24 hours” to all traceback requests.
- Under current rules, when non-gateway providers are notified by the FCC of illegal robocall activity, they must merely seek to mitigate illegal traffic. Under the new rules, providers that originate illegal robocall traffic must now block that traffic, and terminating and non-gateway intermediate providers must provide accurate information to the FCC about where they received the traffic. Additionally, when a voice provider fails to adhere to FCC directives to block the traffic, the voice provider immediately downstream from that provider must block it.
- All voice service providers must take reasonable and effective steps to ensure that any immediate upstream provider from which they accept call traffic is not using it to carry or process a high volume of illegal traffic.
Opportunities for Clients to Comment on Additional Robocall Measures
It its FNPRM, the FCC seeks comment on whether the agency should move forward with imposing additional anti-robocall tools and strategies that it is considering, some of which likely would increase burdens on voice providers. For example, the FCC asks:
- Whether the Commission should require providers to adopt analytics-based blocking of calls that are highly likely to be illegal on an opt-out basis without charge to consumers;
- Whether the Commission should require providers to block based on do-not-originate lists; and
- Whether to require the display of caller name information in certain cases.
In its NOI, the FCC was operating in more of a fact-finding mode, seeking input on the tools voice service providers use to combat illegal calls, including an industry tool known as a “honeypot,” and on the current state of call labeling, including the extent of its use and its accuracy. Both are explained in greater detail below:
A honeypot is an unassigned phone number that is used by a voice service provider, researcher, or other third party to receive (and, when permissible, record) calls to those numbers. One potential advantage of a honeypot is that it allows “listening in” without violating any actual customer’s privacy. The NOI asks:
- What are the anticipated benefits, and whether the use of honeypots involves any privacy risk (e.g., the receipt of inadvertent calls or voicemails in which the caller reveals personally identifiable information).
- Should the Commission take steps to further the use of honeypots?
- Are there any barriers to their use the Commission could remove?
- Are there any voice service providers that do not offer call labeling services to their customers? If so, why not?
- What labels are most commonly used, and how are these labels determined? How is STIR/SHAKEN caller ID authentication information used in determining the correct label?
- What role does crowd feedback play in call labeling? Do consumers report satisfaction with these services? How often do voice service providers receive complaints about inaccurate labels from call recipients?
- Is there anything the Commission can do to improve the availability and accuracy of call labeling, or make it more valuable to consumers and accurate for callers? Should the Commission do so?
How JSI Can Help
JSI will continue to review the new rules and provide an update on the timeline for comments on the FNPRM and NOI once both items have been published in the Federal Register as well as compliance deadlines for the new rules once those have been established.