During the first meeting of the latest iteration of the FCC’s Consumer Advisory Committee, which he rechartered in April (TR Daily, April 10), FCC Chairman Ajit Pai today emphasized that the issue he hears most about is robocalling, and that he believes the robocall-blocking proposal he has placed on the agenda for Thursday’s FCC meeting “is going to be a major step forward.”
However, if industry does not implement “robust” caller ID authentication by the end of the year, the Chairman has proposed that the Commission mandate the adoption of authentication. “Progress has been made, but we must be ready to act if major carriers don’t follow through,” he tweeted on Friday.
Wireline Competition Deputy Bureau Chief Lisa Hone told the CAC members today that her “team has been working very hard this weekend” to incorporate the Chairman’s proposal in the draft third further notice of proposed rulemaking that is scheduled for a vote at the Commission’s meeting this Thursday.
The draft third FNPRM is paired with a declaratory ruling to authorized default blocking of illegal and unwanted calls. Last week, USTelecom and CTIA asked the FCC to clarify the draft declaratory ruling to indicate that authorized call blocking extends to unwanted robocalls, not just illegal robocalls, so as to avoid uncertainty among service providers as to the actions they may take. They also asked the FCC to clarify that the focus of the draft declaratory ruling is consumer-facing call-blocking tools, not network-level blocking programs (TR Daily, May 31).
Call authentication and robocall-blocking are among the issues the CAC is expected to address under its current charter, CAC Chairman Steve Pociask, the president and chief executive officer of the American Consumer Institute, told the committee members in outlining the meeting agenda.
Commissioner Brendan Carr also brought up the issue of robocalls during his remarks to the CAC. “I know there’s been some pushback” to the default call-blocking item on the agenda for Thursday’s meeting. “Some people are asking the FCC to delay the vote or water down the decision, and I’m absolutely opposed to that,” he said. “I’m full-steam ahead with the FCC decision and looking forward to getting that across the finish line this week.”
During Ms. Hone’s presentation, CAC member Steven Morris, vice president and associate general counsel at NCTA, asked whether implementation of the industry’s call authentication solution, which will only work for IP (Internet protocol)-based services, will make calls originating from non-IP networks look like fraudulent calls.
Ms. Hone said that “that is fundamentally a question for the people doing the authenticating,” that is, industry.
Mr. Morris said, “Consumers will need to understand that just because a call isn’t authenticated doesn’t mean it’s fraudulent.”
Ms. Hone said the question makes assumptions about how carriers will handle calls from non-IP carriers and what kind of consumer education they will engage in. She also said that call authentication will be an “iterative process,” with changes and improvements continuing after the initial implementation.
In response to a plea from Irene Leech, who represents the Consumer Federation of America on the CAC, for the FCC to remember that there are broadband gaps in rural areas, Chairman Pai said, “We’re encouraging nontraditional players to participate.”
She repeated her concerns after Commissioner Carr spoke to the CAC, and he noted the existence of “dig-once” bills in Congress that could help ensure fiber conduit deployment with road projects.
Commissioner Carr also emphasized the importance he places on “making sure that every community in the country has a fair shot at 5G.”
In a presentation about the recently established Office of Economics and Analytics, OEA acting Chief Giulia McHenry said that the office currently has “just over” 100 staffers, including 60 economists, including 40 employees in its Economic Analysis Division, which is organized into “practice groups that mirror the policy-making bureaus; 24 in the Auctions Division, which was moved from the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau; and one person in the Data Division, whose function she described as “data meets IT,” an effort to make the data collected by the FCC “more usable by the bureaus.” Ms. McHenry added, “That is one area we plan to grow.” The OEA also has an Industry Analysis Division, which was moved from the Wireline Competition Bureau. —Lynn Stanton, [email protected]
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