ACA Connects said the FCC was definitely right in proposing a one-year extension to smaller operators of its deadline for adopting the STIR/SHAKEN call authentication regime.
STIR/SHAKEN is the illegal robocall-combating tool ISPs are required to adopt under the TRACED Act.
In reply comments filed at the FCC, ACA Connects, which represents those smaller operators, said that extending the June 30,2021 deadline until June 2022, as the FCC has proposed, makes sense because smaller operators are depending on third-party vendors for implementation "solutions" that are still being developed.
Responding to AT&T's opposition to the extension in its comments, ACA Connects pointed out that AT&T itself has conceded implementation can be tough, saying "these are not easy tasks to achieve." ACAC said that "no doubt this observation would apply with even greater force when it comes to small providers operating with limited resources or in-house technical expertise."
And while some have suggested the FCC could adopt a case-by-case review of extensions, rather than the blanket extension it has proposed, ACAC pushed back.
"This approach would inundate the Commission with extension requests from a multitude of small providers, many of them presenting evidence of the same or similar implementation burdens," it said. "The costs of hiring outside lawyers and consultants to prepare and submit these requests would consume funds that would be better spent working towards implementation of STIR/SHAKEN."
ACAC said "small providers as a class face 'undue hardship' sufficient to justify an extension of at least one year."
The "at least" was a reference to some commenters seeking an even longer extension. ACAC said it was OK with that, too, though it said the FCC should provide plenty of notice if it planned to extend the extension.
Some commenters said that the exemption could allow smaller IP-based voice providers to continue to originate large volumes of illegal robocalls.
ACAC countered that while it appreciates the concern, that is already taken care of by the TRACED Act's requirement that during any compliance delay, an operator must adopt a robocall mitigation program. It also urged the FCC to continue to pursue robocall scammers vigorously. "[E]ven if most unlawful robocalls are originated by small providers, it does not follow that most small providers originate large volumes of unlawful robocalls," ACAC said.
ACAC got an assist from NCTA-The Internet & Television Association, which said it supports the extension because they face challenges that make it "difficult, if not impossible," to comply.
NCTA, whose members include all the largest providers, said those had an advantage smaller operators did not (and could be the 800 pound canaries in the mine shaft, as it were). "While the implementation of STIR/SHAKEN requires all voice providers to incur a variety of costs, most large providers already have commenced planning for the necessary investments and should be in a position to sign and receive calls by the deadline," it said. "Smaller providers, on the other hand, generally are not as far along in the planning process, and their decisions will be informed by the initial experience of larger providers."
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