TCPA Regulatory Update: USTelecom Petition and Robocall Traceback Efforts
Commission Rules on USTelecom Petition for Recon; Amends Rules
In an Order released on December 14, 2021, addressing a Petition for Reconsideration filed by USTelecom, the Federal Communications Commission (“Commission”) adopted a number of changes to its immediate call-blocking notification rules. The most notable change was the Commission’s decision to permit voice service providers operating IP networks to use Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) Code 603, in addition to Codes 607 and 607 to meet the Commission’s immediate call-blocking notification requirements. As we reported in January, in 2020, the Commission adopted rules expanding its safe harbor for call blocking. As part of that decision, the Commission also adopted rules requiring voice service providers that block calls to provide immediate notification to callers of such blocking through the use of specified SIP Codes — Codes 607 and 608. USTelecom sought reconsideration and clarification of this requirement. In its Order granting this request, the Commission concluded that permitting Code 603 during the finalization and transition to Code 607 and 608 “strikes a reasonable balance” between ensuring voice service providers have the technical ability to provide immediate notifications and that callers receive uniform and actionable information when their calls are blocked.
The Order also clarified that the immediate call-blocking notification requirement applies to analytics-based blocking only, regardless of whether that blocking is opt-in, opt-out, or performed at the network level.
The Commission also waived the current rules that specify the use of SIP Codes 607 and 608, slated to go into effect January 1, 2022, until the new rules — also permitting the use of SIP Code 603 — are effective.
Senators Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Enhance Robocall Traceback Efforts
U.S. Senators Edward Markey (D-MA) and John Thune (R-SD) introduced the Robocall Trace Back Enhancement Act — intending to “help bolster privately led efforts to trace back the origins of illegal and bothersome robocalls.” Senators Markey and Thune were also the original two co-sponsors of the TRACED Act, which was enacted in December 2019.
This legislation seeks to protect the current USTelecom-led Industry Traceback Consortium — established pursuant to the TRACED Act — from lawsuits by providing immunity for “receiving, sharing, or publishing” of information “regarding suspected fraudulent, abusive, or unlawful robocalls, illegally spoofed calls, and other illegal calls.” Voice service providers who share information with the consortium would also be protected from lawsuits under the bill. The bill would also amend the TRACED Act to clarify that the Commission or the consortium may publish a list of voice service providers that refuse to participate in traceback efforts or that are found to originate or transmit a substantial number of robocalls.
In introducing the legislation, Senator Markey said, “This legislation makes it easier to root out bad actors who illegally robocall countless phone numbers by promoting public accountability among, and aggressive action against, those responsible for illegal, fraudulent, and abusive robocalls. I am proud to partner with Senator Thune as we make it clear that there are no blue robocalls or red robocalls — there are only despised robocalls.”