FCC Comment Deadline: Implementing the Pallone-Thune Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence Act

Monday, February 24, 2020 - 5:00pm

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) seeks comments on a notice of proposed rulemaking (NRPM) to implement the Pallone-Thune Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence Act (TRACED Act) to establish a registration process for the registration of a single consortium that conducts private-led efforts to trace back the origin of suspected unlawful robocalls.

In this NPRM, the FCC proposes to implement section 13(d) of the TRACED Act. Unlawful prerecorded voice message calls—robocalls—plague the American public. Despite the FCC's efforts to combat unlawful robocalls, which includes efforts to trace unlawful spoofed robocalls to their origination—a process known as traceback—these calls persist. Congress recognized the continued problem and enacted the TRACED Act to further aid the FCC's efforts. Congress acknowledged the beneficial collaboration between the FCC and the private sector on traceback issues and, in section 13(d) of the TRACED Act, required the FCC to issue rules for the registration of a single consortium that conducts private-led efforts to trace back the origin of suspected unlawful robocalls.

The FCC proposes rules to implement a simple registration process, and invites comments on any of the following proposals. First, they propose that the Enforcement Bureau issue an annual public notice seeking registration of a single consortium that conducts private-led efforts to trace back the origin of suspected unlawful robocalls. The Enforcement Bureau would issue the public notice no later than April 28 this year, as required by the TRACED Act, and by that date annually thereafter.

Second, FCC proposes to require an entity that plans to register as the consortium for private-led traceback efforts to submit in this docket a letter of notice of its intent to conduct private-led traceback efforts and its intent to register as the single consortium. We propose that the letter of notice include the name of the entity and a statement of its intent to conduct private-led traceback efforts and its intent to register with the FCC as the single consortium that conducts private-led efforts to trace back the origin of suspected unlawful robocalls. 

Third, FCC proposes to mandate that the entity address the statutory requirements in such letter by:

  1. Demonstrating that the consortium is a neutral third party competent to manage the private-led effort to trace back the origin of suspected unlawful robocalls;
  2. Including a copy of the consortium's written best practices regarding management of its traceback efforts and regarding providers of voice services' participation in the consortium's efforts to trace back the origin of suspected unlawful robocalls, and an explanation thereof;
  3. Certifying that, consistent with section 222(d)(2) of the Communications Act, the consortium's efforts will focus on fraudulent, abusive, or unlawful traffic; and
  4. Certifying that the consortium has notified the FCC that it intends to conduct traceback efforts of suspected unlawful robocalls in advance of registration as the single consortium.

Fourth, FCC notes that the statute contemplates a single registrant with the FCC, and so FCC must select a single consortium if more than one qualified consortium seeks to register. To do that, we propose that the Enforcement Bureau select the single registered consortium based on its analysis of any letter and associated documentation submitted by an entity seeking to register as the single consortium. Our judgment of compliance with the TRACED Act's requirements will be informed by the work we have done with the private sector, particularly the Industry Traceback Group. We propose to heavily weight the consortium applicant's expertise in both managing and improving the traceback process to the benefit of interested parties, including the FCC. Moreover, we propose to heavily weight whether the consortium applicant is open to all voice service providers. The degree of openness is indicative of the level of neutrality we would expect in order to accept a consortium's registration.

Fifth, while FCC proposes to continue to solicit interest by public notice on an annual basis, in order to minimize the burdens of the registration process FCC proposes not to require the incumbent consortium to file a new application each year. Rather, under the proposal, the rules will require that each certification in a letter extend for the duration of each subsequent year that the incumbent consortium serves, unless the incumbent consortium notifies the FCC otherwise in writing on or before the date for the filing of such letters set forth in the annual public notice. In the event of any delays in the annual selection process, FCC also proposes to authorize the incumbent consortium to continue its traceback efforts during the pendency of that process, until the effective date of the selection of any new consortium. FCC proposes that the Bureau shall select any new consortium no later than 90 days after the date set forth in the annual public notice. 

Members of the public may submit comments online. More information is available at this Federal Register notice.