By: Andrew Regitsky
In a Fourth Report and Order (Order) released December 10, 2021 in Docket 17-97, the FCC has shortened the amount of time provided to small voice service providers that are not facilities-based. They will now be required to implement STIR/SHAKEN in the IP portions of their networks no later than June 30, 2022. This moves the deadline up from June 30, 2023. The Commission defined small voice service providers subject to the Order as those with 100,000 or fewer voice service subscriber lines. Large voice providers were required to implement STIR/SHAKEN last June.
More stringently, voice service providers suspected of originating illegal robocalls will be required to implement STIR/SHAKEN within 90 days of a determination by the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau following a review process.
The Commission takes these actions because evidence indicates that this subset of small voice service providers (non-facilities-based), are originating an increasing quantity of illegal robocalls.
Congress and the FCC found that the best way to stop illegal robocalls is through the STIR/SHAKEN call authentication technology. According to the Commission, “[b]ecause STIR/SHAKEN utilizes a three-level attestation to signify what a voice service provider knows about the calling party, it provides vital information that can be used by terminating voice service providers to block or label illegal robocalls before those calls reach their subscribers.”
Recent evidence has found that just one of the 19 providers that received letters from the Federal Trade Commission in January 2020 for facilitating robocalls had more than 100,000 access lines. Moreover,
TNS released a follow-up report in September 2021, stating that “only 4% of the high-risk calls in 1H 2021 originated from the top six carriers . . . [reflecting] a significant drop from 11% in 2019 and down from 6% in 2020.” It concludes that the small provider extension “has likely resulted in the increase of unwanted VoIP calls” and… argues that “problematic robocalls increasingly are shifting to small carrier networks . . . [a]s large carriers continue to implement STIR/SHAKEN.” No commenter disputed these conclusions or offered competing evidence suggesting a different conclusion. (Order, at para. 11).
To facilitate implantation of the Order, the Commission defines non-facilities-based voice providers:
We define a voice service provider as “non-facilities based” if it offers voice service to end-users solely using connections that are not sold by the provider or its affiliates. We adopt this definition for a “non-facilities-based” small voice service provider because it captures those providers that lack facilities-based voice connections, provides certainty to both affected voice service providers and the Commission, and has record support. A voice service provider’s voice service that does not use connections sold by the provider or its affiliates, by definition, “rides atop” another provider’s transmission service. Therefore, such voice service is not offered over the voice service provider’s own facilities. A voice service provider readily knows whether it is offering voice service that relies on its own (or its affiliates’) facilities or not, and therefore can easily determine whether it is subject to this definition. (Id., at para. 19).
To comply with the Order, small providers must update their filings in the Robocall Mitigation Database. They must` within 10 business days of the effective date of the Order, update their certifications and associated filings indicating that they are subject to a shortened extension, and further update their certifications and associated filings within 10 business days of completion of STIR/SHAKEN implementation in the IP portions of their networks.
Carriers specifically suspected of initiating illegal robocalls will now be required to implement STIR/SHAKEN within 90 days if the Enforcement Bureau determines that the provider following notice, fails to: (1) mitigate suspected illegal robocall traffic, (2) provide information including credible evidence that they are in fact not originating such traffic, (3) or respond in a timely manner or meet its burden under section 64.1200(n)(2) of the Commission’s Rules.
The Order will become effective 30 days after it appears in the Federal Register. It is difficult to find anyone in the industry disagreeing with the need for the Commission’s actions. The sooner all carriers implement STIR/SHAKEN the better for all carriers and consumers.