US House Robocall Hearing
The House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology has released more details about its April 30, 2019, hearing on “Legislating to Stop the Onslaught of Annoying Robocalls.” See the Regulatory Mix dated 4/24/19. The Committee will consider the following proposed legislation:
The Regulatory Mix Today: US House Robocall Hearing, and the Contraband Phone Task Force Report
- H.R. 946, the "Stopping Bad Robocalls Act," which would (1) Update the TCPA’s autodialer definition to ensure robocallers cannot evade the protections in the law to make robocalls without consumers’ consent and to reinforce that text messages are covered as well as calls; (2) Require additional consumer protections to limit the calls consumers receive because of certain FCC created exemptions to the TCPA; (3) Require the FCC to create a reassigned number database so consumers do not receive robocalls intended for the person that was previously assigned the consumer’s phone number; (4) Extend the statute of limitations for the FCC to take action against robocallers and illegal spoofers to up to four years and allow the FCC to immediately go after bad actors, rather than requiring the FCC to wait for a second offense; (5) Require the FCC, after consultation with the Federal Trade Commission, to submit annual reports to Congress detailing the FCC’s progress in stopping robocalls; and (6) Require that, within a year, the FCC prescribe consumer protections to require telephone service providers to authenticate the source of calls, so they don’t include misleading caller ID information with some exceptions. Calls that have not been authenticated would not be completed unless subscribers chose to unblock such calls, and telephone service providers could not charge subscribers extra just for this service.
- H.R. 1421, the "Help Americans Never Get Unwanted Phone calls (HANGUP) Act of 2019," which would rescind Section 301 of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 exempting calls “made solely to collect a debt owed to or guaranteed by the United States” from the prior consent requirement.
- H.R. 2355, the "Regulatory Oversight Barring Obnoxious (ROBO) Calls and Texts Act," which would require the FCC to establish a Robocalls Division within the Enforcement Bureau that specifically addresses the issue of robocalls. That division would be charged with: (1) ensuring consumer protection and compliance with federal laws relating to public safety and robocalls; (2) serving as a line of communication between the federal government and the communications industry to coordinate efforts to combat robocalls; (3) actively managing robocall consumer complaints; and (4) serving as a line of communication between the FCC and other related federal agencies regarding the issue of robocalls, among other things. The bill would also require the FCC to implement regulations to compel carriers to adopt technological standards to prevent robocalls and periodically update those regulations.
- H.R. 2298, the "Repeated Objectionable Bothering of Consumers on Phones (ROBOCOP) Act," which would require carriers, for no additional charge, to enable technology that: (1) verifies the accuracy of caller ID information; (2) generally blocks calls or text messages that do not have verified caller ID information; and (3) blocks calls or text messages that originate, or probably originate, from an autodialer, unless the consumer has consented or the call is coming from a public safety entity. The bill would also provide for an appeal process whereby the FCC could address instances where calls or texts messages are misidentified as originating from auto dialers, among other things. The bill further gives the FCC the authority to “whitelist” some callers if they offer an “essential service.” It also establishes a private right of action to enjoin or recover damages for violations of the new call blocking requirements in the bill.
- H.R. 721, the "Spam Calls Task Force Act of 2019," which would require the Attorney General, in consultation with the FCC, to convene an interagency working group to study the enforcement of the TCPA.
- Discussion Draft of H.R. _______, the "Support Tools to Obliterate Pesky (STOP) Robocalls Act," which would: (1) allow carriers to provide robocall blocking technology to consumers on an opt-out basis; (2) require the FCC to issue rules for interconnected VoIP providers or one way interconnected VoIP providers to require greater call record retention obligations, among other things; and (3) require the FCC to issue rules to streamline the ways in which private entities share information relating to robocalling or spoofing with the FCC.
- H.R. 1575, the "Robocall Enforcement Enhancement Act of 2019," which would: (1) increase the statute of limitations for illegal spoofing to three years; (2) increase the time the FCC has to impose a forfeiture, after it issues a notice of apparent liability, to three years for illegal robocalls; and (3) allows the FCC to impose a forfeiture against illegal robocallers without first issuing a citation.
Contraband Phone Task Force Report
CTIA and the Association of State Correctional Administrators (ASCA) submitted a report to the FCC detailing the activities of the Contraband Phone Task Force. (In February 2018, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai convened a diverse group of stakeholders – state corrections officials, solutions providers, public safety experts, the wireless industry, and the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Prisons – to address how best to leverage technological solutions to combat contraband devices in correctional facilities.)
Regarding their submission, CTIA and ASCA said: “ The wireless industry and corrections officials are committed to combatting the illegal use of contraband cellphones by prison inmates. Last year, the wireless industry and corrections officials formed a Contraband Phone Task Force to examine potential technological, legal, and administrative challenges and solutions to combat contraband devices while accounting for the interests of legitimate wireless users. This report details the task force’s significant efforts to date. We are encouraged by this ongoing collaboration and look forward to continued coordination between industry and corrections officials on this critical issue.”
Among other things, the report provides a summary of the Task Force’s activities to date in the following areas:
- Coordination and collaboration among wireless service providers and corrections officials to identify contraband phone challenges and potential solutions;
- Establishment of a Testbed for the technical assessment of Contraband Interdiction System (CIS) technologies (see Attachment A of the Report for a detailed analysis of the findings of the Testbed and recommended best practices for deploying CIS technologies based on lab and field test observations);
- Implementation of state-level court order processes to enable wireless carriers to disable cellular service to contraband devices;
- Use of the wireless industry’s Stolen Phone Database to deny service to contraband phones across multiple cellular networks; and
- Review of the possibilities and challenges of geofencing capabilities as a contraband interdiction solution (Attachment B to the Report summarizes how geofencing could operate in a correctional facility setting and CTIA’s related views on legal and privacy issues).
Participating industry representatives and corrections officials will continue to meet and to work collaboratively on solutions to address this critical public safety issue.
The Regulatory Mix, Inteserra’s blog of telecom related regulatory activities, is a snapshot of PUC, FCC, legislative, and occasionally court issues that our regulatory monitoring team uncovers each day. Depending on their significance, some items may be the subject of an Inteserra Briefing.