The FCC plans to mandate that voice service providers adopt caller ID authentication technology to combat illegal “spoofing” and deregulate longstanding end-user access charges at its next meeting scheduled for March 31, 2020. Under the FCC’s proposal, voice service providers that originate or terminate calls would be required to employ STIR/SHAKEN technology (a framework of interconnected standards to authenticate phone calls as they are passed from carrier to carrier) in their networks no later than June 30, 2021, allowing them and other providers in the call chain to verify that calls are coming from the displayed caller ID number. The proposal would implement provisions of the recently-passed TRACED Act, which requires the FCC to kick off a multitude of near-term rulemakings and other actions aimed at addressing unlawful spoofing and robocalling operations. FCC Chairman Pai previously urged major providers to adopt STIR/SHAKEN technology voluntarily, but his assessment is that the voluntary approach did not move fast enough. In addition, the FCC anticipates launching a rulemaking to deregulate a host of end-user charges related to interstate access service and prohibit carriers from invoicing such charges through separate line items to simplify customer bills.

Although the March agenda is relatively light, the STIR/SHAKEN and access charge items could significantly impact provider costs, tariffing practices, and billing procedures. As a result, providers should closely examine the FCC’s proposals and get their input in early in light of the agency’s recent decision to restrict in-person meetings and expand telework in response to the coronavirus pandemic. You will find more information on the key March meeting items after the break:


Continue Reading FCC Plans to Mandate STIR/SHAKEN Anti-Spoofing Framework, Deregulate End-User Access Charges at March Meeting

The FCC plans to follow last month’s major 911 location accuracy item with another significant public safety rulemaking at its next meeting scheduled for December 12, 2019. Under the FCC’s plan, all telecommunications carriers and interconnected VoIP service providers would be required to transmit calls to 988 to 24-hour crisis services maintained by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Veterans Affairs. In addition, the FCC anticipates launching two rulemakings aimed at opening up more mid-band spectrum for commercial and unlicensed uses to meet growing consumer demand for wireless broadband. The meeting agenda also includes an item addressing contentious issues surrounding intercarrier switched access charges. Moreover, the FCC will vote on three enforcement actions at the December meeting. Although, per normal practice, the agency provided no specifics on the planned enforcement actions, enforcement meeting items normally entail large fines in high-profile FCC focus areas like robocalling. While not as jam-packed as prior meetings, the December agenda underscores the FCC’s steadfast focus on public safety and spectrum reallocation in 2019.

You will find more information on the most significant proposed December meeting items after the break:


Continue Reading FCC to Propose National Crisis Hotline, Tackle Mid-Band Spectrum Items at December Meeting

Last week, the FCC announced its tentative agenda for its upcoming October 25, 2019 open meeting and released drafts of the items on which the commissioners will vote. There is a notable lack of a spectrum item on the agenda, as Chairman Pai does not appear ready yet to address the pending mid-band spectrum proceedings (including C-Band and 6 GHz). In addition, while the items will address themes that have been consistent throughout Ajit Pai’s chairmanship, like bridging the digital divide and removing unnecessary regulatory burdens, there does not appear to be a particular common theme among the items on the agenda. We have not been able to come up with a way to weave a Halloween theme into the agenda either, but at least the Chairman’s blog did take time out to wish the Nationals good luck in their series with the Dodgers. Those well wishes appear to have paid off!

You will find more details on some of the most significant October meeting items after the break:


Continue Reading FCC’s October Meeting Has No Spectrum Item or Particular Theme

At its August Open Meeting, the FCC adopted a Report and Order (“Order”) implementing portions of two recent statutes—Kari’s Law and the RAY BAUM’s Act—that address ensuring greater access to 911 and emergency services for members of the public. Kari’s Law requires multi-line telephone systems (“MLTS”), like those in hotels and offices, to have the capability for a user to dial 911 directly without having to press “9” (or some other access code) first to call out.  Section 506 of the RAY BAUM’s Act requires the FCC to consider adopting rules to ensure a 911 caller’s dispatchable location is properly conveyed from an MLTS to the public safety answering point (“PSAP”). The Commission took the opportunity of implementing these two Acts to also expand 911 dialing requirements for certain VoIP, TRS and mobile text-to-911 services.

With these new requirements, the FCC continues its trend of expanding the availability of emergency services calling to newer technologies. As these new forms of communication become more mainstream – and as they grow as replacements for, rather than complements to, traditional telecommunications services – the FCC has been inclined to make emergency services a “must have” feature of the service. Providers of new communications technologies should carefully review their service offerings to determine how to handle customer attempts to reach emergency services.


Continue Reading FCC Orders Implementation of Direct 911 Dialing and Dispatchable Location for Multi-line Telephone Systems, Extends Location Obligations of Interconnected VoIP and TRS Providers

On August 1, the FCC took another step in its ongoing effort to combat deceptive and unlawful calls to consumers. This action once again sets its sights on a common target:  concealment or alteration of the originating number on a communication. This practice is known as “spoofing” and, when conducted with an intent to cause harm to consumers, is unlawful. In the August 1 Report and Order, the FCC amended its Truth In Caller ID rules to expand anti-spoofing prohibitions to foreign-originated calls and text messaging services.

Once these rules take effect, the FCC closes a significant gap in its prior rules – calls which originate outside the United States – at the same time that it acts preemptively to prohibit deceptive spoofing in a growing area – text messaging. In the process, the FCC will enhance one of its most commonly used tools in its effort to combat unlawful robocalls – fines for unlawful spoofing. Generally, the FCC has attacked parties that originate unlawful robocalls by fining them for the subsidiary violation of spoofing the unlawful calls. In telecommunications enforcement, spoofing violations are the tax evasion charges to Al Capone’s criminal enterprise.


Continue Reading FCC Expands Anti-Spoofing Prohibitions to Foreign-Originated Calls, Text-Messaging Services

After more than twenty years, VoIP’s unclassified status may be coming to an end. Last month, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision in Charter Advanced Services LLC v. Lange in which it considered whether an interconnected VoIP service offered by Charter can be regulated like a telecommunications service by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (“MPUC”). The court recognized that the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) has repeatedly failed to resolve the issue of VoIP service regulatory classification. However, the Eight Circuit upheld the district court’s finding that Charter’s VoIP service is an information service that is federally preempted from state regulation based on its interpretation of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 (the “Act”) and FCC orders.

Continue Reading Finally Naming the Duck? Eighth Circuit Decides VoIP is an Information Service, Preempts Minnesota Regulation

At its July 2017 Open Meeting, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) adopted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) designed to strengthen and expand consumer protections against “slamming” and “cramming.” Slamming is the unauthorized change of a consumer’s preferred service provider, while cramming is the placement of unauthorized charges on a consumer’s telephone bill.  As we reported in our Open Meeting preview, slamming and cramming represent a major source of consumer frustration and a common focus of recent FCC enforcement actions. The NPRM is the agency’s first attempt in five years to strengthen the rules around slamming and cramming – and is the first attempt to specifically define cramming in its rules.  Moreover, the agency asks whether these rules should apply to wireless carriers (especially prepaid wireless) and to VoIP providers, potentially expanding the reach of the rules significantly.  Wireless carriers and interconnected VoIP providers should therefore pay close attention to the potential compliance obligations and marketing restrictions proposed in the NPRM.

Continue Reading July 2017 FCC Meeting Recap: FCC Plans to Strengthen and Expand “Slamming” and “Cramming” Rules

The Wireline Competition Bureau of the FCC issued a Public Notice on February 4, 2016 announcing that beginning February 18, 2016 the Bureau will accept applications from interconnected VoIP providers to obtain telephone numbers directly from the North American Numbering Plan Administrator (NANPA).  Interconnected VoIP providers can submit applications for numbers electronically using the Commission’s Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS).

Continue Reading Interconnected VoIP Providers Can Secure Telephone Numbers From NANPA Starting February 18

businessman is dialing a phone number in officeOn November 19, 2015, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC or Commission) adopted a Fourth Report and Order (R&O) and Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), expanding its hearing aid compatibility (HAC) rules to cover additional modes of voice communications access, including Wi-Fi calling and VoIP applications.  In the NPRM, the FCC seeks comment on a joint industry proposal (Joint Proposal) to move to 100 percent wireless handset HAC compliance within eight years.  Comments are due by January 14, 2016 and replies are due by January 29, 2016.

Continue Reading FCC Expands Hearing Aid Compatibility Rules to Wi-Fi Calling and VoIP and Proposes Compatibility for All Handsets

Our post about the unique enforcement posture of interconnected VoIP quickly became the most popular post on the Telecom Law Monitor.  One person asked if we could elaborate on the differences in regulatory treatment between traditional telecom services, interconnected VoIP and non-interconnected VoIP (like Skype).   In response, we prepared a chart comparing applicability of the major telecom obligations to both types of VoIP.


Continue Reading Telecom Law Monitor Feature: Regulatory Requirements for VoIP Services