Broadband Associations Push for Robocall 'Safe Harbor'

The major broadband associations got together to propose the safe harbor they are seeking from liability for "unintentionally or inadvertently blocked, mislabeled, or misidentified" calls in its effort to stem illegal robocalls. 

Both the FCC and Congress are requiring broadband voice providers to implement default robocall blocking (the SHAKEN/STIR regime). 

Related: Robocall Bill Headed to President's Desk 

In a meeting with FCC staffers last week, according to FCC documents, representatives of CTIA, NCTA-The Internet & Television Association and USTelecom said that the FCC needed to adopt a broad liability "safe harbor" based on "reasonable analytics." 

They noted that the FCC has given them "more tools" to battle illegal robocalls, they also needed some protection from liability for friendly fire, as it were. "[A] broad and flexible safe harbor is needed to enable voice service providers to take more aggressive actions to relieve consumers from the torrent of robocalls." (as the reporter was typing these words, he was hanging up the latest in a series of unwanted robocalls).

In the recently passed TRACED Act, which mandated default robocall blocking, a safe harbor was mandated by Dec. 30, with the FCC allowed to come up with the shape of that harbor. 

Related: Pai Dials Up Cross-Border SHAKEN/STIR First 

They want the FCC to create a harbor that fits good-faith efforts to block calls that might result in blocking legitimate calls. 

Helpfully, the groups also provided their own map to that safe harbor: 

Safe Harbor 

"A voice service provider that unintentionally or inadvertently blocked, mislabeled, or misidentified the level of trust for a call shall be deemed to be in compliance with the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, and the Commission’s rules, and shall not be liable in any enforcement action or adjudicative proceeding, including any civil action, if, at the time the provider blocked or mislabeled the call or misidentified the call’s level of trust: 

  i. "The blocking, labeling, or identification was initiated by the provider at the network level or was pursuant to tools offered to consumers on an opt-in or opt-out basis and was in connection with an event that the provider had a good-faith reason to believe was an illegal or unwanted robocall event because the provider took one or more reasonable action(s) including, but not limited to, the following: 

    A. "Performed research on the phone number to reasonably determine the call was highly likely to be an illegal robocall; 

    B. "Implemented reasonable procedures to block calls in a manner consistent with the Commission’s rules; or 

    C. "Utilized reasonable analytics, which may include information provided by call authentication frameworks. 

  ii. "The provider had procedures in place for blocking, labeling, or identification that were reasonably likely to confirm that calls blocked, labeled, or identified were limited to illegal or unwanted robocalls and the provider followed these procedures; 

  iii. "The provider had procedures in place to address reported incidents of unintentional or inadvertent blocking, mislabeling, or misidentification of such calls; and 

  iv. "The provider made reasonable efforts to avoid blocking, mislabeling, or misidentifying emergency public safety calls." 

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.