Robocall Bill Has Carriers on The Hook for Call Authentication, Blocking

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UPDATE The U.S. House of Representatives passed the “Stopping Bad Robocallers Act” on Wednesday afternoon by a 429 to 3 vote. The bipartisan H.R. 3375 is sponsored by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, (D-NJ), Ranking Member Greg Walden (R-OR), Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Mike Doyle (D-PA) and Communications and Technology Subcommittee Ranking Member Bob Latta (R-OH). 

The House measure is similar to legislation the Senate passed in May, the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act. That measure bolsters the FCC’s ability to stop illegal robocalls. 

Both measures now head to a congressional conference committee to resolve differences.

The House bill has several requirements that affect carriers. Many of the illegal robocalls that are made today are done using disguised caller-ID, so the call looks like it is coming from a trusted source. Carriers must implement caller ID authentication technology within six months. Small or rural carriers may seek “a reasonable period of time” for implementation, according to the bill text. For those carriers, the FCC will need to find alternative methodologies for authenticating calls.

The measure prohibits carriers from charging customers for blocking illegal robocalls.

The bill ensures the FCC has the authority and the tools to take strong, quick action when it tracks down robocallers. It gives the agency more time to investigate and punish illegal robocallers, and requires the Commission to pare down the list of companies that are allowed to use robocalling services, such as health care providers, pharmacies or schools. The measure increases the FCC’s fine from $1,500 to $10,000 per violation. 

Various factions of the telecom industry praised the House action. CTIA SVP Government Affairs Kelly Cole, said the wireless industry is committed to combating illegal robocalls and protecting consumers.  

NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association CEO Shirley Bloomfield said members take robocalling concerns very seriously and are committed to resolving the problem. “Therefore, we are pleased that Congress is moving forward with a solution that allows providers to eliminate illegal robocalls, while attempting to care for the sorts of burdens that might preclude the participation of smaller providers or have unintended negative consequences on rural consumers.”

“Enough is enough – it’s time for Americans to hang up on abusive robocallers once and for all,” said Verizon SVP Federal Legislative Affairs Robert Fisher. “Verizon has already begun deploying the STIR-SHAKEN call authentication protocol for IP Voice services, and we welcome the continued momentum toward a bipartisan, comprehensive solution that empowers service providers, law enforcement, and most of all consumers.”

July 26, 2019

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