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Republicans Lobby To Keep FCC From Broadening ATDS, Capacity Definitions Under TCPA

A group of seven Republican Senators have written to Ajit Pai, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, urging the agency to keep a narrow definition of what constitutes an automated telephone dialing system as a means of adhering to Congress’s intent when it enacted the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.

“The FCC must make it more workable for legitimate businesses to stay in communication with consumers in a timely and effective manner, while continuing its fight to eliminate annoying, illegal, and fraudulent texts and calls,” the Senators wrote.

The letter, which was orchestrated by Sen. John Thune [R-S.D.], the chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, is a rebuttal of a letter sent last month to Pai by 14 Senate Democrats that requested a broader definition of what constitutes an ATDS in order to stop the proliferation of robocalls from annoying individuals across the country.

The FCC has been working to address robocalls on a number of different fronts, both before and after the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia overturned much of a Declaratory Ruling issued by the FCC in July 2015 that expanded the scope and regulatory burdens of the TCPA on companies, including those in the ARM industry. ACA International sued the FCC, and in March, the Appeals Court undid much of what the FCC enacted three years ago. Since then, the courts have had a difficult time figuring out what is and is not allowed under the TCPA and that has created confusion. The FCC has started the rulemaking process to address the discrepancies, but that process could take a couple of years before it is finalized.

Members of Congress have issued their own bills attempting to more establish definitions for autodialers, how consent can be revoked, and protections for reassigned numbers.

Republicans want the FCC to keep things pretty much exactly where they are right now.

“Consistent with Congress’ intent and the text of the TCPA, the FCC should further confirm that, to be an ATDS, equipment must use a random or sequential number generator to store or produce numbers and dial those numbers without human intervention, and find that only calls made using actual, not theoretical, ATDS capabilities are subject to the TCPA’s restrictions,” the Senators wrote.

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