Industry Gives Thumbs Down to New Robocall Requirements

By: Andy Regitsky

In May, the FCC released a Seventh Order in Docket 17-59, mandating new requirements for non-gateway carriers to stop illegal robocalls.  These included:

Extending the 24- hour traceback requirement to cover all voice service providers in the call path.

Enhancing the existing requirement requiring originating providers to block illegal traffic when notified by the Commission).  Making clear that while terminating and non-gateway intermediate providers are not generally required to block such traffic, they are required to respond and provide accurate information regarding where they received the traffic.

Requiring voice service providers to immediately downstream from a provider that fails to comply with the Commission’s directive to block illegal traffic.

Expanding its “know-your-upstream-provider” requirement to include all voice service providers.  This holds that all voice service providers in the call path responsible for the calls that transit their networks.

At the same time this Order was released, the Commission released its Eighth Further Notice of Rulemaking (FNPRM), which requested industry comments on even more robocall requirements. These include:

Requiring all terminating providers to offer analytics-based blocking.

Requiring all voice service providers to block calls based on a reasonable do-not-originate list.

Requiring non-gateway intermediate and terminating providers to block calls if that provider, upon receipt of a Notice of Suspected Illegal Traffic, cannot identify the upstream provider from which it received any or all the calls, and allowing the Enforcement Bureau to direct a terminating or non-gateway intermediate provider that has received at least one prior Notice of Suspected Illegal Traffic to both block substantially similar traffic and identify the upstream provider from which it received the traffic.  

Industry comments on these proposals were filed on August 9, 2023.  Not surprisingly, there was almost unanimous agreement among providers that the Commission should not rush into new robocall requirements, and it were to do so, to allow carriers implementation flexibility.  For example, US Telecom stated,

To the extent the Commission adopts new mandates, it should continue to ensure that providers have the flexibility they need to best protect their customers. Specifically:

 • Call Blocking. Any new mandate to block calls highly likely to be illegal should conform to the agency’s existing flexible approach. It also should account for the capabilities, or lack thereof, of legacy networks through appropriate exemptions, as well as the time some providers will need to implement.

• Caller ID. The Commission should not impose any obligations that rely on the legacy caller ID name (“CNAM”) database model, nor should the Commission impose mandates related to emerging capabilities at this time. New mandates could end up creating fresh loopholes for bad actors.

• Call Labeling. Call labeling continues to be an important industry innovation to protect consumers.  Commission intervention on the lead generator loophole, number rotation, and inconsistent STIR/SHAKEN signing will help to enhance call labeling, as well as blocking (US Telecom Comments, at p. 4).

Verizon pointed out that the industry is still adapting to STIR/Shaken and it is premature to mandate new requirements:

The full promise of STIR/SHAKEN has yet to be realized, and the Commission should focus on achieving the full benefits of STIR/SHAKEN before shifting its attention to the next iterations of call labeling technology. Wading into the complex call labeling and call branding ecosystem with prescriptive rules at this point would risk chilling pro-consumer innovations. (Verizon Comments at p. 1).

First Orion Corporation noted that the industry continues to make significant progress against illegal robocalls, and additional FCC action is unnecessary.

The industry comprising carriers, analytics engines (AEs) and other solutions providers continues to make significant advances in protecting consumers from illegal and unwanted calls, while also ratcheting up the focus on helping callers get wanted calls answered. Given this steady progress, and for additional reasons discussed herein, First Orion believes no further Commission action is required at this time with regard to these specific items set forth in the FNPRM and NOI. (First Orion Comments at p. 1).

On the other hand, telecom users are of course, more receptive to new rules.  For example, Ad Hoc

supports the Commission’s proposed requirement for all voice service providers to block calls using a reasonable Do-Not-Originate (“DNO”) list limited to invalid, unallocated, and unused numbers, as well as those for which the subscriber has requested blocking, namely, inbound-only numbers.  Maintaining the scope of these currently approved categories (invalid, unallocated, and unused numbers, and numbers for which the subscriber has requested blocking) moving forward is appropriate as no legitimate caller would ever be able to use one of the aforementioned numbers to originate a call.  Any use of such a number for outbound calling would, therefore, be presumptively illegal.  (Ad Hoc Comments at pp. 4-5).

Ad Hoc, however, was in the minority.  That is why the opinion here is that the FCC will tread carefully before mandating further robocalls rules for the industry.