Bipartisan Bill Emerges to Arm Robocops

House Energy & Commerce Committee Republican and Democratic leaders have struck a deal on a bill that would strike a blow against unwanted and abusive robocalls, including by requiring carriers to provide call authentication tech at no added cost to consumers.

The FCC has recently made it clear carriers can block calls by default before they get to consumers and strongly urged those carriers to adopt an authentication system--already in the works*--ASAP, and with the expectation they would not join subs since it actually saves carriers money. But it did not mandate either in its recent robocall declaratory ruling.

But there is bipartisan support for mandating the no-cost call authentication, as well as directing the FCC to do more to block the calls.

Related: FCC Looking to Arm Robocops

The "Stopping Bad Robocalls Act":

1. "Requires that phone carriers implement call authentication technology so consumers can trust their caller ID again, with no additional line-item for consumers, and includes a process to help rural carriers implement this technology.

2. "Allows carriers to offer call blocking services to consumers with no additional line charge on an opt-out basis with important transparency safeguards to make sure important calls aren’t inadvertently blocked.

3. Directs the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to issue rules to protect consumers from calls they didn’t agree to receive and to ensure consumers can withdraw consent.

4. Requires the FCC to enact safeguards so companies can’t abuse robocall exemptions.
Ensures the FCC has the authority and the tools to take strong, quick action when it tracks down robocallers, including by extending the statute of limitations from one year to three, and in some instances four, years for callers violating robocall prohibitions.
Mandates the FCC to submit a report to Congress on the implementation of its reassigned numbers database to make sure the Commission is effectively protecting consumers from unwanted calls.

“Robocalls have become a scourge on our daily lives causing many Americans to simply stop answering their phones," said NCTA-The Internet & Television Association. "This is why we welcome the bipartisan leadership of Chairman Pallone and Ranking Member Walden to introduce the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act. This legislation along with efforts by the FCC to combat robocalls are critical to protecting consumers from this nuisance.”

*Comcast has partnered with AT&T to successfully test the SHAKEN/STIR call authentication protocol. 

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.