TCPA Regulatory Update — Voice Service Providers, FCC in Thick of SHAKEN/STIR Implementation
Comments were due on January 29 on the Public Notice soliciting input for the FCC’s first staff report on call blocking, covered in last month’s TCPA Digest. The FCC received numerous comments in this proceeding, including from large voice service providers, smaller rural voice service providers, calling parties, technology platforms, and consumer groups. Large voice service providers generally shared the tools they have made available to consumers to fight unwanted robocalls, explained that measuring the effectiveness of robocall mitigation will be challenging, supported the FCC’s efforts to enact the TRACED Act, and encouraged the FCC to adopt a broad safe harbor for call blocking that is based on reasonable analytics. Small and rural voice service providers generally explained that the SHAKEN/STIR framework, in its current form, is unlikely to be adopted in rural areas, and discussed other issues, such as IP interconnection challenges, that will delay its adoption. On the other hand, calling parties highlighted that mislabeled and incorrectly blocked calls are inhibiting their ability to do business and that the FCC should require voice service providers to give callers notice of labeled and blocked calls and implement a challenge mechanism to enable callers to unblock calls. Technology platform providers asked the FCC to provide clarity on the meaning of reasonable analytics, supported the adoption of a broad safe harbor, and noted that call-blocking solutions are often not “one size fits all.” The coalition of consumer groups that submitted comments asked the FCC to implement transparent metrics and collect additional information from voice service providers.
A number of large and small voice service providers also wrote to the FCC’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau to update staff on their progress deploying and implementing SHAKEN/STIR, reasonable analytics, and other parts of the robocall blocking toolkit. Large voice service providers generally explained that they had successfully implemented SHAKEN/STIR on their networks and were already in the process of exchanging signed traffic with other providers. Voice service providers are working to increase the percentage of exchanged traffic that is signed, as well as increasing the number of partners with whom they can exchange authenticated traffic. Many noted that the potential of SHAKEN/STIR is limited by the fact that many voice service providers have not yet implemented it. Indeed, the voice service providers complicit in originating illegal robocall traffic have not yet implemented SHAKEN/STIR, and are unlikely to do so voluntarily, limiting its potential. A trade association representing callers also met with FCC staff to highlight SHAKEN/STIR implementation issues facing business enterprises, which often route calls through various carriers or use telephone numbers provided by their clients and can only receive partial SHAKEN/STIR attestation for their calls.
Commission Seeks Comment on Reassigned Numbers Database Technical Requirements, Reviews Comments on Other Petitions
The Commission released a Public Notice seeking comment on the Technical Requirements Document for the Reassigned Numbers Database (Database) recently approved by the North American Numbering Council. The Public Notice follows up on a December 2018 Second Report and Order in which the FCC decided to establish a single, comprehensive database containing reassigned number information from each provider that obtains North American Numbering Plan U.S. geographic numbers and toll free numbers. The Database will enable a caller to determine whether a telephone number has been reassigned, in order to avoid calling consumers with reassigned numbers who did not previously give consent to receive a particular call. Comments and reply comments on the Public Notice will be due on February 24 and March 9, respectively.
The Commission received only a handful of comments and reply comments on its Public Notice on the Lucas Cranor Petition, covered in last month’s TCPA Digest. The Petition seeks a ruling that “consumers have the right to revoke consent from receiving unwanted marketing text messages from their wireless providers at any time by any reasonable means; and that wireless providers must honor these revocation requests immediately.” Because the Petition was substantively identical to a Petition the Commission previously received, and because it was opposed by major industry stakeholders, the Commission is unlikely to act on the Petition soon.
Career Counseling Services, Inc. (CCS) submitted an application for review of the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau’s recent grant of the Petition for Declaratory Ruling of Amerifactors Financial Group, LLC. In granting the Petition, the Bureau determined that online fax services are not faxes sent to “telephone facsimile machines” and therefore are not prohibited under the TCPA. Several parties opposed CCS’s Application for Review, and it is unlikely that the FCC would reverse a decision it made so recently without new or compelling evidence in the record.