On July 19, Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-SD) and Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) sent FCC Chairman Ajit Pai a letter commending the FCC for releasing its Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (discussed in our April Monthly TCPA Digest), which proposes to reduce unwanted robocalls and robotexts by creating a reassigned numbers database. In the bipartisan letter, the Senators encouraged the FCC to move forward with the creation of a reassigned numbers database and asked the FCC to prioritize considerations of comprehensiveness, accuracy, security, efficiency, and the creation of a reasonable safe harbor. The Senators believe a safe harbor would be appropriate if the caller “took all reasonable steps to properly use a reassigned numbers database,” made the call or text in reliance on incorrect information in the database, had the consent of the original called party, and subsequently reported the inaccuracy.
Although many industry commenters favored the creation of a reassigned numbers database accompanied by a safe harbor from liability, some were less enthusiastic. Those parties expressed concerns about the potentially substantial costs to create and maintain such a database, which would likely fall on business callers, and with uncertain benefits.
Multiple parties used a related proceeding to contribute additional comments on the reassigned numbers database. On June 20, the FCC’s Consumer and Government Affairs Bureau (“Bureau”) released a Public Notice soliciting input for a staff report on robocalling. The FCC received approximately thirty substantive comments (the reply comment deadline is August 20). In the Public Notice, the FCC sought comment on a variety of topics related to illegal robocalls, including the effects of current initiatives such as SHAKEN/STIR to combat caller ID spoofing; data on notable trends in illegal robocalling; enforcement efforts; and remaining challenges. Several major trade associations and service providers filed comments in this proceeding endorsing market solutions to prevent robocalls to reassigned numbers, rather than the creation of a new database.
Also in response to the Public Notice, many commenters expressed support for industry efforts to implement the SHAKEN/STIR framework, a set of cryptographic protocols and operational procedures to authenticate calls and reduce illegal spoofing. Many also praised the FCC’s 2017
Call Blocking Report and Order and Further Notice, which empowered providers to block calls that illegally spoofed some categories of telephone numbers, such as invalid numbers and numbers subject to a do-not-originate request.