FCC Acts Again Against Illegal Robocalls

By: Andrew Regitsky

The FCC will use its September 30, 2021, meeting to propose new actions to stop illegal robocalls. In a Fifth Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (Fifth Notice) in Docket 17-59, the Commission will propose steps to eliminate the vexing problem of stopping illegal robocalls that originate abroad. In a separate action, the Commission will release a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) in Docket 12-179 in which it will propose a new approach to protect Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) from illegal 911 autodialed calls. Here are more details about each proposal.

In the Fifth Notice, the agency will require gateway providers that are the point of entry for foreign calls into the United States to take part in the fight against illegal robocalls originating abroad. It will mandate that:

Gateway providers will be required to apply STIR/SHAKEN caller ID authentication to, and perform robocall mitigation on, foreign-originated calls with U.S. numbers.

In addition, the Commission seeks industry comments on several additional robocall mitigation requirements to ensure that gateway providers take steps to prevent illegal calls from entering the U.S. network, including:

Requiring gateway providers to respond to traceback requests within 24 hours.

Implementing mandatory blocking requirements for both gateway providers and the U.S.- based provider that receives the call from the gateway provider, including requirements based on the Commission’s existing effective mitigation requirement, bad-actor provider blocking safe harbor and reasonable analytics blocking safe harbor.

Requiring gateway providers to confirm that a foreign call originator that a U.S. telephone number to originate a call is authorized to use that number.

Adopting a general mitigation standard for gateway providers.

The Commission will also seek to make general improvements to its anti-robocalling rules by requesting comments on revisions to the information that filers must submit to the Robocall Mitigation Database and by clarifying providers’ obligations with respect to calls to and from PSAPs and other emergency services providers.

Separately in the Further Notice, the FCC will attempt to protect PSAPs from unwanted autodialed calls by limiting access to registered PSAP telephone numbers to voice service providers that would block autodialed calls made to those telephone numbers. It will include:

A proposal that voice service providers be required to block autodialed calls made to PSAP telephone numbers registered on the PSAP Do-Not-Call registry. 

The Commission will also seek comments on: 

The extent to which autodialed calls and text messages continue to be a problem for PSAPs, including whether the number of such unwanted calls has significantly changed in response to technological evolutions in the last decade.

The seriousness of the security risks associated with housing registered PSAP telephone numbers in a centralized database and granting access to those numbers to callers purporting to need them to comply with our rules.

Whether and how to develop stronger security controls for a PSAP Do-Not-Call registry as well as on whether there are new technological controls that could effectively prevent autodialed calls to PSAP numbers that should be considered.

Ways to protect PSAPs from cyberattacks and disruptions other than those conducted with robocalls.

Industry comments regarding both proceedings will be due 30 days after each appears in the Federal Register.

It is interesting to note that the Commission again stays in the safe lane – i.e., robocalls – while it awaits a fifth commissioner. Incidentally, this is the latest in history for a president to appoint a new FCC commissioner (and a new chairman) since the Commission was created. There is no sign that anything will change anytime soon.