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Commissioners Likely to OK Stir/Shaken Order; Tweaks Possible

An order and Further NPRM on improving how Stir/Shaken works as a tool against unwanted and illegal robocalls is expected to be approved by FCC commissioners Thursday, potentially with a few tweaks addressing the handful of concerns raised by industry, industry officials said.

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The order would close a gap in the Stir/Shaken framework by requiring intermediate providers receiving unauthenticated calls directly from domestic originating providers to authenticate those calls. It would expand robocall mitigation requirements for all providers, adopt tougher enforcement tools, and define the obligations of satellite voice service providers.

All four commissioners voted last year to approve a notice asking questions, which led to the proposed rules (see 2205190023). Commissioner Geoffrey Starks warned then that having different rules for voice, gateway and intermediary providers means “bad actors can and do take advantage of … regulatory arbitrage opportunities.”

The Commission has worked diligently to combat the scourge of robocalls on multiple fronts,” the draft order says: “One key component in that fight is the STIR/SHAKEN caller ID authentication framework, which protects consumers from illegally spoofed robocalls by verifying that the caller ID information transmitted with a particular call matches the caller’s telephone number.” While the caller ID authentication technology used is “effective as designed, its overall success in curtailing illegally spoofed robocalls depends on broad implementation by providers,” the draft says.

Incompas praised the general approach of the FCC in the draft order but raised concerns about a requirement that providers file a statement in the robocall mitigation database (RMD) if they have been “the subject of a formal Commission, law enforcement, or regulatory agency action or investigation with accompanying findings of actual or suspected wrongdoing due to the filing entity transmitting, encouraging, assisting or otherwise facilitating illegal robocalls or spoofing.” The group said its “primary concern” is that such action may be “based on nothing more than the provider having received multiple traceback requests” from the Industry Traceback Group.

Findings predicated on nothing more than multiple traceback requests are especially unrevealing for intermediate providers that transmit millions or tens of millions of calls each day,” Incompas said: “We recommend that the Commission seek further comment on this issue and to gain a more fulsome understanding of the nature of these types of actions and the circumstances that may warrant reporting of actions that provide meaningful information for the Commission.”

Incompas also said many competitive providers “continue to face obstacles” working out IP interconnection agreements with other companies. “The issue of IP interconnection will ultimately determine how successful the Commission’s efforts to adopt an industry-wide call authentication trust anchor will be,” Incompas said.

USTelecom also proposed tweaks. “Consistent with the Draft Order’s rejection of a strict liability standard, the Commission should make explicit that providers are deemed in compliance when they take such steps and have no reason to know, and do not know, that their upstream provider is sending unsigned traffic it originated,” the group said. USTelecom also sought clarification on mandated disclosures in robocall mitigation plans, which it notes are limited to “formal actions or investigations … with findings of actual or suspected wrongdoing” and not “mere inquiries and investigations.” The FCC should make clear that formal actions and investigations “also must be public,” the group said.

The Professional Associations for Customer Engagement (PACE) raised concerns about “due process implications” of the FCC’s proposed expedited processes for removing a vice service provider’s (VSP’s) “facially deficient” certification from the mitigation database. “The expedited process requires the Commission to give the VSP notice of the filing deficiency and requires the VSP to cure the deficiency (or explain why the filing is not deficient) within a 10-day period” and removal can follow without notice, PACE said: “The Commission declines to provide an exhaustive list of reasons why a filing would be considered ‘facially deficient’ as to warrant removal from the RMD, instead offering only four examples.”