FCC Adopts Call Blocking Safe Harbors, Seeks Comment on Additional Protections

The Federal Communications Commission has adopted a pair of safe harbors aimed at complying with the TRACED Act and protecting telecom companies when blocking calls deemed to be illegal or unwanted robocalls.

The safe harbors were approved unanimously by the FCC’s commissioners.

Voice service providers will not be liable when using “reasonable” analytics, including caller ID authentication information to block calls from being connected under the first safe harbor.

The second safe harbor protects providers that block calls from “bad actor” upstream providers passing on illegal or unwanted calls when those upstream providers have been notified, but fail to take action to stop those calls.

“Today’s action is just the latest in our ongoing campaign to protect all Americans against unwanted robocalls,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, in a statement. “From authorizing call blocking by default to mandating the implementation of a call authentication framework to taking strong enforcement actions, such as last month’s proposed record $225 million fine against a telemarketer who made approximately one billion spoofed robocalls, we are pulling out all the stops to combat unlawful robocalls. And there is evidence that, with the collective efforts of government and industry, we are making progress.”

The FCC also issued a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking where the regulator is seeking comment on “whether to obligate phone companies to better police their networks against illegal calls, and whether to require them to provide information about blocked calls to consumers for free.” As well, the FCC is seeking comment on the notification and effective redress mechanisms for callers when their calls are blocked, and on whether measures are necessary to address the mislabeling of calls.

“Protecting American consumers from illegal and unwanted calls remains the FCC’s top consumer protection priority,” the FCC said in a release announcing its moves. “Today’s action will continue to advance the Commission’s multi-pronged approach to stopping illegal and unwanted robocalls, and continue to build on the foundation established by previous Commission actions.”

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