By: Andrew Regitsky
Illegal robocalls continue to be a serious problem. Last year the FCC received 119,000 complaints about unwanted calls and obviously this is just the tip of the iceberg. Thus, in its upcoming March 16, 2023, meeting the FCC is poised to issue a Sixth Report and Order (Order) and Sixth Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (Notice) in Docket 17-97 to further aid in the fight against illegal robocalls by extending the STIR/SHAKEN caller ID framework to intermediate carriers on a call. STIR /SHAKEN protects consumers by verifying that the caller ID information transmitted with a particular call matches the caller’s telephone number. While the caller ID authentication technology used in the STIR/SHAKEN framework is effective, its overall success in stopping illegal robocalls depends on its broad implementation by providers. Therefore, in the Order, the Commission “expands caller ID authentication requirements in the STIR/SHAKEN ecosystem by requiring non-gateway intermediate providers that receive unauthenticated calls directly from an originating provider to use STIR/SHAKEN to authenticate those calls.”
In May 2022, the agency required gateway providers—intermediate providers that are the point of entry for foreign calls into the United States—to implement STIR/SHAKEN and sought comment on ways to expand STIR/SHAKEN requirements to other intermediate providers in the call path. This Order closes that STIR/SHAKEN gap. The Order also expands robocall mitigation requirements for all providers, adopts more robust enforcement tools, and defines the STIR/SHAKEN obligations of satellite voice service providers. Here are more specifics.
The Order requires:
Intermediate providers that receive unauthenticated Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) calls directly from originating providers to authenticate those calls using STIR/SHAKEN. Carriers must comply with this requirement by December 31, 2023.
All providers, regardless of their STIR/SHAKEN implementation status, must take “reasonable steps” to mitigate illegal robocall traffic and submit a certification and mitigation plan to the Commission’s Robocall Mitigation Database. Pursuant to this reasonable step standard, a provider’s program is “sufficient if it includes detailed practices that can reasonably be expected to significantly reduce” the
carrying or processing (for intermediate providers) or origination (for voice service providers) of illegal robocalls.
All providers must submit additional information with their certifications to the Commission’s Robocall Mitigation Database, including details on their role in the call chain, STIR/SHAKEN implementation obligations, and any recent formal law enforcement or regulatory investigation into suspected unlawful robocalling.
In addition, the Order prohibits downstream providers from accepting traffic from intermediate providers not listed in the Commission’s Robocall Mitigation Database.
It establishes new enforcement tools to hold illegal robocallers accountable for violations of the Commission’s rules, including additional penalties for noncompliance and an expedited removal procedure for facially deficient Robocall Mitigation Database filings. Specifically, the Commission (1) adopts a per-call forfeiture penalty for failure to block traffic in accordance with our rules and set maximum forfeitures for such violations; (2) requires the removal of non-gateway intermediate providers from the Robocall Mitigation Database for violations of our rules, consistent with the standard applied to other filers; (3) establishes an expedited process for provider removal for facially deficient certifications; and (4) establishes rules that would impose consequences on repeat offenders of our robocall mitigation rules.
The Order grants an ongoing STIR/SHAKEN implementation extension for satellite providers that are small service providers using North American Numbering Plan (NANP) numbers to originate calls. The extension was set to expire on June 30, 2023.
Satellite providers that do not use NANP numbers to originate calls or only use such numbers to forward calls to non-NANP numbers are not “voice service providers” under the TRACED Act and therefore do not have a STIR/SHAKEN implementation obligation.
In the Notice, the Commission:
Seeks comments on the use of third-party caller ID authentication solutions and whether any changes should be made to the Commission’s rules to permit, prohibit, or limit their use.
Seeks comments on whether to eliminate the STIR/SHAKEN implementation extension for voice service providers that cannot obtain a Service Provider Code token.
Parties that wish to file comments on the Notice must file them no later than 30 days after the Notice appears in the Federal Register.