FCC Seeks Comments on Proposed Anti-Robotext Rules

The Federal Communications Commission (“FCC” or “Commission”) recently released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) proposing new rules to mitigate malicious robotext campaigns. The FCC is soliciting public comments on whether to require mobile wireless providers to find and actively block illegal texts, as well as ideas to apply caller ID authentication standards to text messaging. The deadline for comments is November 10, 2022, and reply comments are due by December 10, 2022. 

By seeking to impose new requirements on mobile carriers, the FCC proposes to extend its rigid  STIR/SHAKEN regime and will be strictly enforcing the rules it promulgates in this proceeding. The compliance costs and disruption potential of some of the proposed rules are likely to be substantial. Consequently, it is critical that all stakeholders make their voices heard. 

The FCC seeks comments on the following proposals: 

Mandatory Blocking of Illegal Texts 

Should mobile carriers be required to block text messages at the network level (i.e., without consumer opt-in or opt-out) that purport to be from invalid, unallocated, or unused numbers and numbers on the Do-Not-Call (“DNO”) list? The FCC avers that these kinds of messages are likely to be illegal (e.g., vehicles for consumer fraud, identity theft, and prohibited commercial solicitation). The following sub-issues are specifically teed-up for comment: 

  • Whether these kinds of messages are a sizable percentage of texts.   
  • Whether mobile wireless providers are already blocking these types of messages.  
  • What types of text blocking are providers are currently doing?  
  • Should the FCC build on the current voluntary text-blocking methods? 
  • Whether requiring mobile providers to block text messages at the network level is necessary.  
  • Whether numbers placed on the DNO list are typically used for illegal texts. 
  • To what extent is spoofing (i.e., a caller disguises its number and instead shows the number of a neighbor or reputable source) a problem with texting? 
  • What additional steps should the FCC take to encourage mobile providers to block texts that appear to come from spoofed numbers? 
  • How effective is device-level or application-based text blocking in preventing illegal texts? 
  • Whether application-based (i.e., over-the-top (“OTT”)) text messaging is a common practice, and whether more or fewer illegal text messages are sent on OTT services as opposed to through mobile wireless carriers. 
  • The current definition of text message, in the Truth in Caller ID rules, includes SMS messages but “does not include . . . a message sent over an IP-enabled messaging service to another user of the same messaging service.” Should this definition be used to use in the text blocking context?
  • How should a provider ensure that its determination that a text is likely to be illegal is applied in a non-discriminatory, competitively- and content-neutral manner? 
  • How should consumers be protected from erroneous blocking of wanted and emergency text messages? 
  • Should terminating providers be required to resolve disputes pertaining to caller ID authentication information within a reasonable time and, at a minimum, provide a status update within 24 hours? 

Applying Caller ID Authentication Requirements to Text Messages 

The Commission seeks comment on its proposal to extend its STIR/SHAKEN authentication framework for IP networks (to combat spoofing of voice calls) to text messages. Related comment are sought on the following topics: 

  • Whether the current STIR/SHAKEN governance system can accommodate text message authentication, or should a new governance system be established? 
  • What are the projected costs of installing STIR/SHAKEN technology for text messages? 
  • Would two years be sufficient for implementation that accounts for the time needed both to finish standards and for providers to perform any necessary network upgrades? 
  • Should the FCC instead require providers to implement caller ID for text messages when technically feasible, without setting a time-certain deadline? If so, how should “technically feasible” be defined?  
  • Will small mobile service providers face particular challenges in authenticating text messages? If so, how should the FCC accommodate those carriers? 
  • What should be the scope of any implementation mandate? Should the FCC apply the requirement to providers of “voice service” who are subject to the STIR/SHAKEN implementation mandate that also provide text message services? Or should the define a new class of providers subject to a mandate for authentication for text messages? How would that class be defined? Should the FCC extend the scope of to include some or all OTT applications delivered over IP-based mobile data networks? 
  • Should the FCC require providers with non-IP network technology to develop a non-IP solution to enable the authentication for text messages on non-IP networks? 
  • Should the FCC prohibit providers from imposing additional line-item charges on their invoices for authentication of text messages? 
  • Should the FCC require display on subscriber devices of any information produced by authentication for text messages? 

The CommLaw Group Can Help! 

Given the complexity and evolving nature of the FCC’s rules, regulations and industry policies & procedures around Robocall Mitigation and Compliance issues and anticipating the torrent of client questions and concerns, The CommLaw Group formed a “Robocall Mitigation Response Team” to help clients (old and new) tackle their unique responsibilities. As such, we are in a solid position to discuss our clients’ businesses and how the proposed rules may affect them. Because the FCC is required to consider and report on all comments, your voice counts. We urge you to contact us soon to discuss how to target your comments in the most effective and economical way. 

WE ARE STANDING BY TO GUIDE YOUR COMPANY’S STRATEGY IN THIS PROCEEDING 

Michael Donahue

Partner

Robert Jackson

Special Counsel

Ronald Quirk

Senior Managing Attorney

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