The FCC is moving full steam ahead this summer with a jam-packed agenda for its next open meeting, scheduled for July 16, 2020. Headlining the meeting is the creation of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, establishing 988 as the 3-digit dialing code for the suicide and mental health crisis hotline. All telecommunications carriers and VoIP providers would be required to implement 988 on their networks by July 16, 2022. The FCC continues to move forward on eliminating unwanted and illegal robocalls, planning to carve out safe harbors from liability for call blocking based on reasonable analytics and seeking comment on any additional obligations for blocking providers. The supply chain rulemaking would adopt the Commission’s prohibition on using universal service funds to support equipment or services provided by identified companies posing a national security threat, and propose further requirements for securing communications networks. The agency also plans to affirm and build upon vertical location requirements for enhanced 911 location accuracy and to establish procedures for enhanced broadband mapping and data collection. In addition, the agenda includes items to modernize the leased access rate formula and streamline and update the priority service program rules for emergency workers.

While FCC action historically dwindles going into an election year, the July agenda shows no signs of slowing down on the Commission’s main priorities. You will find more details on the most significant July meeting items after the break:


Continue Reading FCC Previews a Jam-Packed July Open Meeting with National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, Call Blocking, and Supply Chain Items Leading the Agenda

On the same day that the FCC set a call blocking declaratory ruling for vote at its July 2020 Open Meeting, the FCC’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau issued rulings in two long-pending petitions for clarification of the requirements of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”). Although these clarifications do not address the core questions regarding the definition of an autodialer and consent requirements that were remanded two years ago in ACA International v. FCC, they may signal an effort to clean up TCPA issues in what is expected to be the waning months of FCC Chairman Pai’s tenure at the Commission.

In the first ruling, P2P Alliance, the Bureau ruled that an automatic telephone dialing system (“ATDS”) is not determined by whether the equipment has the capability to send a large volume of calls or texts in a short period of time. Instead, the Bureau, while recognizing that the Commission’s interpretation of the ATDS definition remains pending, ruled that “whether the calling platform or equipment is an autodialer turns on whether such equipment is capable of dialing random or sequential telephone numbers without human intervention.” The Bureau also provides an illuminating discussion of the so-called “human intervention” element of prior FCC statements regarding autodialers.

In the second ruling, Anthem, Inc., the Bureau denied a petition to exempt certain healthcare-related calls from the TCPA’s consent requirements. In this order, the Bureau breaks less new ground and instead reiterates that prior express consent must be obtained before a call (or text) is made and that the supposed value or “urgency” of the communication does not necessarily make it permissible.

Besides these two petitions, the Commission has nearly three dozen petitions pending before it on a variety of matters relating to exemptions from the TCPA’s consent requirements, the collection and revocation of consent, the “junk fax” provisions, and other questions raised by the flood of TCPA class action litigation in the last five years. If the FCC begins addressing these other pending petitions, the course of TCPA class action litigation could change significantly.


Continue Reading Beginning of a TCPA Clean-Up? FCC Sets Another Robocall Blocking Item for Vote While Addressing Two of Nearly Three Dozen Pending Petitions

At the November Open Meeting of the Federal Communications Commission (“Commission” or “FCC”), Commissioners approved a Report and Order (“Order”) and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“FNPRM”) that targets a high-priority issue for Chairman Pai – curbing illegal telemarketing and other calls.  Acting with unusual speed (at least, by the standards of past Commissions), the Order implements a number of proposals made in March 2017 (for more see our earlier post).  With the Order, the FCC adopts rules that enable voice service providers to block calls from invalid, unallocated, and unassigned numbers before they ever reach a consumer’s phone, while the FNPRM seeks input on ways to make sure that blocking does not impact lawful calling practices. FNPRM comments are due by January 23, 2018 and reply comments by February 22, 2018.

Continue Reading FCC Permits Limited Blocking to Curb Unlawful Robocalls; Challenge Process, Effectiveness Teed Up for Further Evaluation

On Wednesday, May 17, 2017, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC or the Commission) published in the Federal Register a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) which aims to develop rules and solutions to reduce the number of illegal robocalls placed to consumers.  The NPRM was adopted at the Commission’s March open meeting.

Continue Reading Deadlines Set for Robocall NPRM

On September 30th, the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC or Commission) released a brief Public Notice in which it clarified that telephone service providers (including traditional, wireless and VoIP providers) are permitted to block calls from a particular phone number if the subscriber to that phone number

stock_12192012_0878The FCC’s high-profile efforts with regard to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) continue.   In addition to two controversial orders released in the last two weeks, the FCC is pushing the telecommunications industry to take action on blocking techniques.  Now the FCC has announced that it will host a meeting for what is billed as an industry-led “Robocall Strike Force.”  The Strike Force was created after Chairman Wheeler took to the FCC blog to prod the industry to action.

Continue Reading FCC Continues Crusade to Curb Robocalls

Responding to complaints by rural LECs that call blocking has increased, the FCC yesterday issued a clarification and a stern warning to carriers not to block, choke or restrict calls to other carriers’ customers. While call completion issues can occur for a variety of reasons, allegations of “blocking” have arisen in a number of access charge disputes and other forms of telecommunications litigation that we track.

The FCC’s declaratory ruling serves as a warning that carriers involved in such disputes should not intentionally block or restrict the ability of callers to reach their intended destinations. It also appears to create affirmative obligations to correct call completion problems that are occurring.


Continue Reading FCC Issues Clarification, Warning about Call Blocking Practices

In response to yesterday’s announcement that BART, the San Francisco area transit authority, modified its cell phone blocking policy, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski announced that the FCC would soon be taking action as well.  Genachowski pledged an "open, public process" to provide guidance on lawful wireless service blocking.

If opened, this will be the first formal proceeding the FCC has undertaken to address lawful blocking of wireless signals.  In the past, the FCC staunchly denied any requests to sanction wireless call blocking. 

UPDATE:  This SF Chronicle report states that the FCC commented on BART’s policy before it was adopted.  According to the report, the FCC suggested language recognizing that an interruption poses risks to public safety and that the benefits of a shut down should outweigh the risks to public safety.  While a BART official correctly notes that this is not an endorsement of the policy, it signals an openness (in limited circumstances) to a shut down that the FCC has not shown before.


Continue Reading FCC to Weigh in on Cell Phone Blocking in Wake of New BART Policy