FCC Adopts Robocall Safe Harbors

The FCC has approved two safe harbors for carriers who have been directed by the FCC to provide call blocking for unwanted robocalls before those calls reach consumers.

One safe harbor is for carriers who inadvertently block wanted robocalls reasonably expected to be unwanted, and the other is for voice providers that block bad actors upstream that fail to mitigate illegal traffic after being warned by the FCC that the traffic is bad.

Related: FCC Tells Robocallers No More Warnings

The commission also approved a Further Notice seeking input on further implementation of the TRACED Act, Congress' mandate to the FCC to provide robocall blocking, something it was in the process of doing.

The FCC makes clear that the robocall blocking has to be free to consumers, something the TRACED Act requires.

FCC chairman Ajit Pai said that the item makes clear that carriers' mistaken blocking of wanted calls must have been based on reasonable analytics tied to the STIR/SHAKEN authentication regime.

The item requires that providers make all reasonable efforts not to block calls from public safety answering points (PSAPS) and that they never block 911 calls.

“We welcome and applaud the FCC’s decision to provide safe harbor protection for voice service providers," said Chris Shipley, attorney and policy advisor for INCOMPAS. "Call blocking in a highly complex environment raises the risks of anticompetitive behavior, but the FCC’s measured and incremental approach to safe harbors strikes the appropriate balance between meeting the statutory obligations of the TRACED Act and providing voice service providers with assurances that good faith call blocking will not result in liability.”

“We applaud the FCC for its continued work to help the industry and law enforcement combat unwanted and illegal calls by further implementing the TRACED Act," said AT&T EVP Joan Marsh. "We look forward to continuing to work with the Commission on this effort as we build on the anti-robocall tools and services we offer our customers, which includes AT&T Call Protect, our free call blocking and labeling tool currently used by millions of customers, and has blocked billions of suspected fraudulent calls.”

“We support the Commission's order adopting a safe harbor for certain types of robocall blocking by voice service providers," said NCTA-The Internet & Television Association. "The new safe harbor will facilitate the ability of cable operators to satisfy the demands of consumers to be protected from unlawful and unwanted robocalls.”

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.