FCC Opens Comments on Implementation of Call Authentication Framework; Will it Work to Protect Legitimate Calls?

Comment request due July 24 focuses on safe harbor for voice service providers blocking calls that fail authentication and feedback on programs to protect legitimate callers from erroneously blocked calls.

6/25/2019 9:30 AM

FCC Opens Comments on Implementation of Call Authentication Framework; Will it Work to Protect Legitimate Calls?

The Federal Communications Commission is seeking comment on implementation of call authentication systems and protections for legitimate calls by voice service providers in a third Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM.)

In particular, the commission is weighing whether it should establish a safe harbor for providers that implement call authentication framework and ensure that legitimate, wanted calls are not blocked, according to the NPRM published in the Federal Register June 24.

The commission is also weighing whether voice service providers that choose call blocking programs focused on calls that fail caller ID authentication—with the expectation most of these calls would be illegitimate—are deserving of a proposed narrow safe harbor, according to the NPRM.

The safe harbor is seen as an incentive for voice service providers to implement the SHAKEN/STIR call authentication framework by the FCC’s deadline of the end of this year without enacting further rulemaking to require them to do so.

Under the SHAKEN/STIR framework—a set of protocols and a multiphase framework developed with the input of many stakeholders—calls traveling through interconnected phone networks would have their caller ID “signed” as legitimate by originating carriers and validated by other carriers before reaching consumers, according to the FCC. The framework digitally validates the handoff of phone calls passing through the complex web of networks, allowing the phone company of the consumer receiving the call to verify that a call is from the person making it.

The FCC announced the NPRM in conjunction with its approval of a Declaratory Ruling allowing voice service providers to use call blocking programs unless consumers opt-out of the service June 6.

The Declaratory Ruling, effective with the FCC’s approval, was also published in the Federal Register June 24. In the ruling, the FCC also directs the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau to prepare two reports in the state of deployment of advanced methods and tools to eliminate illegal calls.

Comments on the call authentication NPRM are due in less than a month, July 24.

In addition to feedback on the proposed safe harbors, the request for comment also includes:

  • Should the FCC create a safe harbor for blocking “unsigned” calls from categories of voice service providers? Many large voice service providers have committed to implementing SHAKEN/STIR this year. If other large voice service providers fail to do so, should blocking unsigned calls from such voice service providers, after a transition period, fall within the safe harbor?
  • How can the FCC ensure that any safe harbor does not impose undue costs on eligible telecommunications carriers participating in the Commission's high-cost program?
  • Are there any protections the FCC should establish for a safe harbor to ensure that wanted calls are not blocked? The commission seeks comment on whether to require providers seeking a safe harbor to provide for identifying and remedying the blocking of wanted calls.
  • Should the FCC create a mechanism to provide information to consumers about the effectiveness of providers’ robocall solutions? If so, how would effectiveness be defined? How would the FCC obtain the information to evaluate the effectiveness of these solutions?

ACA International is reviewing the NPRM for comments on behalf of the accounts receivable management industry and encourages members to share their input. Stakeholders may file comments on the call authentication NPRM through the FCC website using CG Docket No. 17-59 and WC Docket No. 17-97. See the Federal Register notice for additional instructions on filing comments.

Vice President and Senior Counsel of Federal Advocacy Leah Dempsey and Hogan Lovells Partner Mark Brennan also discussed the FCC’s Declaratory Ruling in a recent Hot Topic webinar for members. A recording will be available and posted in ACA Daily with insight on how to work with providers and regulators to ensure calls in the industry are not blocked.

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