The FCC this week adopted two Notices of Proposed Rulemaking (NPR) in the fight against illegal robocalls. One takes aim at the networks that serve as entry points for foreign-originated robocalls and the other proposes rules to protect 911 call centers from robocalls.
Stopping foreign-originated robocalls is “one of the most vexing challenges” the FCC faces in the battle against foreign-based robocallers and the voice service providers that they use, according to a press release.
The NPR proposes that domestic networks that accept these calls apply STIR/SHAKEN caller ID authentication and perform robocall mitigation on all foreign-originated calls with U.S. numbers.
The FCC says that the STIR/SHAKEN framework reduces the effectiveness of illegal spoofing, identifies those using the technique and helps voice service providers block robocalls that are using spoofed caller ID information before they reach subscribers.
The NPR makes several proposals:
- Requiring gateway providers to respond quickly to traceback requests, which help block illegal robocalls and contribute to FCC enforcement investigations.
- Requiring both the gateway provider and the network accepting questionable traffic from the gateway provider to actively block these calls.
- Requiring gateway providers to ensure that foreign calls using U.S. phone numbers are legally authorized to do so.
- Requiring gateway providers to submit a certification to the Robocall Mitigation Database that confirms the providers’ commitment to robocall mitigation and describes the providers’ mitigation practices.
The STIR/SHAKEN technical standard was adopted in March 2020. It enables carriers to verify that the caller ID information transmitted with a call is a match with the caller’s number. The goals are to make illegal spoofing less effective and identification of violators easier.
The NPR on 911 call centers – technically called Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) – would require voice service providers to block robocalls that are listed on the PSAP Do-Not-Call registry. The FCC also asks for information on how to best protect PSAPs while avoiding security risks that would occur if call center numbers were made available to those claiming to be autodialer operators.
Other questions in the NPR focus on determining the extent to which auto-dialed calls and text messages continue to be a problem for 911 call centers and whether the volume of unwanted calls and texts has changed significantly since the Commission first took steps to establish a PSAP Do-Not-Call registry in 2012. The Commission also is seeking comment on ways to protect PSAPs from cyberattacks and disruptions other than those conducted with robocalls.
The FCC takes protecting PSAPs very seriously. In June 2018 it fined AT&T $5.25 million for 911 outages in March and May 2017 related to calls placed by customers over the carrier’s voice over LTE (VoLTE) network. The outage lasted five house and led to the failure of 2,600 911 calls.
In November 2019, CenturyLink and West Safety Services agreed to a Consent Decree under which the carrier would pay $400,000 and the vendor $175,000 in connection with a multi-state 911 outage on August 1 of that year.