August 9, 2021 – The Federal Communications Commission is seeking comment on proposed rules that it expects will reduce access to phone numbers by those running illegal robocalls and to further enhance public safety by adding transparency measures on foreign providers.
At the August Open Meeting on Thursday, the FCC said it is proposing to require voice-over-internet protocol providers to abide by the new robocalling regime, which requires voice service providers to put in place measures to limit spam calls and ID masking or face severe penalties.
To block calls, voice providers must first gather analytics on the origins of the call and essentially tag its authenticity before its routed.
As of the June 30 deadline, all major U.S. phone companies use caller ID authentication system to label calls as part of the regime, known as STIR/SHAKEN. This allows for end-to-end phone calls to be verified with a now common digital tool. AT&T said in June that is it now labelling over one billion calls a month.
Last week’s meeting also yielded other proposals to safeguard limited numbering resources, “protect against national security risks…and further promote public safety” by adding a layer of oversight at the executive branch level to vet those outside the United States trying to access numbering resources. That includes requiring applicants disclose foreign ownership information.
This would add to the federal government’s approach to protecting national security from foreign entities perceived as threats to the country, including legislation introduced recently that would prevent the FCC from approving those companies with ties to the Chinese communist party.
Associations Press FCC to Keep Robocall Extension for Facilities-Based Carriers
Organizations say preponderance of illegal calls don’t come from facilities-based providers.
August 11, 2021 – In submissions to the Federal Communications Commission on Monday, associations representing smaller telecom are asking the agency to keep an extension specifically for facilities-based carriers to comply with new robocall rules.
In May, the FCC voted to push up by a year, from 2023 to 2022, the deadline for small carriers to comply with the STIR/SHAKEN regime, which requires telephone service providers to put in place measures – including analytics services to vet calls – to drastically reduce the frequency of scam, illegal robocalls, and ID spoofing that misleads Americans to believe the call is legitimate. Large carriers, however, had a deadline of June 30 this year.
But in submissions to the FCC this week, the Competitive Carriers Association, NTCA, and USTelecom said the preponderance of illegal robocalls come from smaller providers – those with fewer than 100,000 lines – that don’t have networks and, because of that, facilities-based carriers should have the additional year to comply with the rules, which is reportedly a highly technical and complex endeavor.
To appreciate the effort, providers must tag or label all calls on their network, using analytics tools, to ensure that the calls are legitimate. All illegitimate calls must be tagged as potential spam or blocked completely. Even still, the possibility of “false positives” can occur. Failure to comply with the rules could result in hefty penalties.
‘Good faith’ actors shouldn’t be penalized
“Commenters recognize as well that care must be taken to correctly identify this group of small providers in a surgical and precise manner that does not sweep in innocent actors and compel them to adopt this standard on a timeframe they had neither anticipated nor budgeted for,” the NTCA said in its submission to the FCC on Monday.
“A more targeted and effective way of capturing the parties that prompted these proposals can be found in the record – specifically, the Commission should require operators that are not ‘facilities-based’ voice providers…to adopt STIR/SHAKEN on a more accelerated timeframe,” the NTCA continued.
Burden of proof on non-facilities providers to show need for extension
USTelecom, however, added that the non-facilities-based providers – which generally originate calls over the public internet – should be able to request the full two-year extension, but they must show why they need it.
“It’s also critical that they are required to explain in detail and specificity why their robocall mitigation plans are sufficient to protect consumers and other voice service providers from illegal and unwanted robocalls,” USTelecom said in its Monday submission.
“Such a requirement would offer the right balance between affording non-facilities-based small providers the opportunity for the full extension if truly needed, but without creating an opportunity for the small VoIP providers responsible for illegal robocalls to abuse the process in order to continue to send unsigned illegal traffic downstream to the detriment of other providers and consumers,” USTelecom added.
FCC Votes to Create Online Portal for Robocall, ID Spoofing Complaints
The FCC has voted to bring in an online portal to collect individual complaints about robocalls and ID spoofing.
June 21, 2021—The Federal Communications Commission has voted in an amendment Thursday to make it easier for people to submit complaints about suspected robocalls and call spoofing directly to the agency’s enforcement bureau.
Section 10(a) of the Traced Act, which is the agency’s tool to fight unlawful robocalls and spoofed caller ID, was enacted in a vote by the FCC and creates an online portal on the FCC website for individuals to submit information suspicious calls and texts.
The FCC will ask the complainant to provide information as to what ID information is displayed, the phone number, date, time, the complainant’s service provider and description of call or text.
“The new online portal will allow such entitles to alert agency investigators of concerning incidents, including floods of robocalls like those that have been known to clog up hospital lines,” according to an FCC news release.
The portal requires approval from the Office of Management and Budget before it takes effect, which is expected within 30 days.
Congress ordered the agency to develop a streamlined process for private entities about unlawful spoof calling and robocalls.
Commentators suggested that the FCC consolidate the new portal and existing complaint process to better distinguish the two.
With these concerns, the FCC has decided to adopt the SAFE Credit Union’s suggestion to include language that explains its use and helps distinguish the portal from the existing informal consumer complaint process.
The FCC stated in a report that timely and thorough information from private entities is crucial to mitigate robocall incidents and help bring swift enforcement.
The FCC Votes To Push Up Deadline For Small Carriers To Comply With STIR/SHAKEN
The FCC voted to cut the time small providers had to become STIR/SHAKEN compliant by one year.
May 20, 2021—The Federal Communications Commission unanimously voted Thursday to shorten the deadline by which small voice service providers must become STIR/SHAKEN compliant.
The FCC voted Thursday to bring sooner the deadline for smaller providers with 100,000 or fewer subscribers to comply with the phone call security protocol by a year, from June 30, 2023 to June 30, 2022.
STIR/SHAKEN is an acronym for Secure Telephone Identity Revisited and Signature-based Handling of Asserted Information Using toKENs. It is a caller identification technology that allows carriers to digitally validate the authenticity of a phone number, allowing a consumer to be sure that the number matches the supposed caller.
The impetus for this change followed a sharp increase in spoof calls targeting smaller carriers that were not yet compliant with STIR/SHAKEN. FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks pointed out that in March of 2021, more than 6.3 billion spoof calls had been made. This number broke the previous record which had just been set in October of 2020 with 6.1 billion spoof calls.
“Clearly, we cannot afford to let up on our efforts to identify the culprits of these annoying and frequently fraudulent calls,” Starks said.
Acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel pointed out that while it makes sense to provide honest providers with additional time to become compliant with the new technology, it was time for a change.
“We recently discovered that some of these smaller companies are pumping large volumes of traffic onto our networks, and a lot of it looks suspiciously like robocalls. It is time to change course,” she said.
Rosenworcel said STIR/SHAKEN compliance is only one plank in the platform of addressing spoof calls. She pointed to the record-setting $255-billion fine the FCC recently handed down to Texas telemarketers using robocalls to sell fraudulent health insurance plans. She also stated that the FCC had issued ten cease and desist letters to providers that appeared to be complicit with spoof calling.
She indicated that it would take all these strategies working in tandem to stamp out robocalling and spoofing.
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