With New Database Opening, Voice Providers Must Certify That They Are Reducing Illegal Robocalls

By: Andrew Regitsky

On April 20, 2021, the FCC took an important step in the never-ending battle to reduce, if not eliminate, illegal robocalls.  The Commission announced the opening of its brand-new Robocall Mitigation Database.  It is through this database that voice service providers will be required to inform the agency of their robocall mitigation efforts. Voice providers need to know that as of September 28, 2021, intermediate and terminating phone companies will refuse to accept traffic from voice service providers not certified in the Robocall Mitigation Database.

The new Database includes a portal through which voice providers must file their certifications.  Certifications must be filed by June 30, 2021.  

Specifically, the Commission requires providers to certify that they have developed a robocall mitigation program that can “reasonably be expected to significantly reduce the origination of illegal robocalls and complies with the practices it describes in its filings.” All voice providers are required to file certifications that describe:

(1) Whether their traffic is either fully, partially, or not yet signed with STIR/SHAKE protocol.  STIR/SHAKE is a call authentication technology that enables voice service providers to verify that the caller ID information transmitted with a call matches the caller’s phone number.

(2) How many of the calls they originate are subject to a robocall mitigation program, the specific reasonable steps they have taken under their program to avoid originating illegal robocalls, and if they have made a commitment to respond to traceback requests and cooperate with investigating and stopping illegal robocalls.

All certifications must be signed by a company officer in conformity with section 1.16.14 of the Commission’s rules.

The Commission also adopted requirements for voice providers to submit contact and identification information when filing their certifications. Each certification must include:

(1) the business name(s)and primary address of the voice service provider;

(2) other business names in use by the voice service provider;

(3) all business names previously used by the voice service provider;

(4) whether the voice service provider is a foreign voice service provider; and

(5) the name, title, department, business address, telephone number, and email address of one person within the company responsible for addressing robocall mitigation-related issues.

As mentioned above, all intermediate and terminating voice service providers will be prohibited from accepting traffic from voice service providers not listed in the Robocall Mitigation Database beginning September 28, 2021. This includes foreign voice service providers that use the North American Numbering Plan to send voice traffic to residential or business subscribers in the United States.

Some small voice service providers were granted extensions for implementing the STIR/SHAKEN technology by the Commission. These companies must file detailed reports on the steps they are taking to ensure they are not the source of illegal calls as part of the certifications they file.

Acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel commented on the importance of the latest actions taken by the Commission:

Protecting consumers from scammers that use robocall and spoofing tools is a top priority…To succeed, we not only need an all hands-on-deck response from government, but we need industry commitment and focus. Our message to providers is clear: certify under penalty of perjury the steps you are taking to stop illegal robocalls, or we will block your calls. (FCC April 20, 2021, News Release).

There is additional robocall news. In 2019, Congress required the FCC to establish a process for the registration of a consortium to conduct tracebacks of suspected unlawful robocalls. USTelecom was the first consortium selected. However, under the rules, each year other parties can seek to become the “Traceback Consortium.” If an entity is interested, it must file a Letter of Intent with the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau (Bureau).

On April 25, 2021, the Bureau published a Public Notice inviting parties to file their Letters of Intent by May 27th.  If entities other than US Telecom apply, the Bureau will seek comments on the applications. The Bureau will announce the new Traceback Consortium on August 25th.