TR Daily Public Knowledge, Other Groups Complain About FCC’s Anti-Robocall Item
Thursday, May 30, 2019

Public Knowledge, Other Groups Complain About FCC’s Anti-Robocall Item

Public Knowledge has warned the FCC of “unintended consequences” of the agency’s efforts to end robocalls, and groups whose members call customers are also concerned about the robocall item scheduled for consideration at the June 6 meeting.

The FCC plans to consider a draft declaratory ruling and third further notice of proposed rulemaking to clarify the FCC’s call-blocking rules for illegal and unwanted calls, including robocalls, at the meeting.

Also on the meeting agenda released today are an NPRM in WT docket 19-140 proposing to modernize the FCC’s rules to promote aviation safety and a report and order and second further notice in MB dockets 07-42 and 17-105 concerning the agency’s leased access rules. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m.

“First, any system the Commission adopts should reflect the decentralized and competitive nature of the PSTN,” Public Knowledge said in a robocall ex parte filing yesterday in CG docket 17-59 and WC docket 17-97. “Users of VOIP providers such as Vonage or Skype, or of services like Twilio or Ring Central, should not have to worry that their calls are less likely to go through. Technical systems adopted to eliminate robocalls must treat all legitimate service providers equally.

“Second, there should be a clear mechanism to address instances of carriers blocking calls by mistake,” Public Knowledge said. “It is clear that consumers have the right to be free of robocalls and unwanted calls more generally, and user choice and control must be paramount. However, no system is flawless, and it should be designed from the start with that in mind, rather than simply giving carriers an absolute safe harbor.

“Finally, we appreciate the Commission’s recognition that Title II of the Communications Act is the appropriate framework for prioritizing both consumer control and competition in communications networks, including protections from unlawful, harmful, and unwanted communications,” Public Knowledge added. “The Commission’s work in this regard demonstrates that is not necessary for it to give up important legal safeguards to modernize its regulatory approach.”

Other parties also have voiced objections with the item that the FCC plans to vote on next week.

An ex parte filing reporting on a meeting with FCC officials and representatives from nine groups said that the declaratory ruling “could harm consumers by resulting in the erroneous blocking of lawful calls — including urgent calls affecting consumer health, safety, and financial well-being. Public safety alerts, fraud alerts, data security breach notifications, healthcare reminders, and power outage updates, among others, all could be inadvertently blocked under the draft Declaratory Ruling. As an initial matter, the draft Declaratory Ruling, which would allow for call blocking on an opt-out basis, is contrary to the Communications Act and Commission precedent. For example, the FCC has historically limited Title II service providers from deciding which call traffic to allow or block, and the draft Declaratory Ruling goes far beyond the ‘certain, well-defined circumstances’ for call blocking that the Commission has previously articulated by proposing opt-out call blocking of ‘unwanted’ calls based on ‘reasonable analytics.’”

The groups also “urged the Commission to seek comment on the proposals in the draft Declaratory Ruling by recasting the Declaratory Ruling as a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. In addition, and as part of any effort to seek comment, the Commission should clarify that the proposals would only apply to the blocking of illegal calls. The Commission should propose that there be sufficient notice of blocking to the caller and to the call recipient, such as through use of an intercept message when a call is blocked, and propose to provide a mechanism for prompt unblocking of any erroneously blocked numbers.”

The filing was submitted on behalf of the American Bankers Association, American Association of Healthcare Administrative Management, National Association of Federally Insured Credit Unions, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform, ACA International, American Financial Services Association, PRA Group, PACE, and Credit Union National Association. —Paul Kirby, [email protected]

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