FCC Updates Aim to Restrict Robocallers’ Access to Phone Numbers

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) unanimously approved its Second Report and Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on September 21st. This proposed rulemaking would provide guidelines for VoIP providers to access phone numbers.

This rule would require VoIP providers make additional robocall-related certifications, similar to carriers, which would include the following attestations:

  • The applicant will not use the phone numbers obtained to knowingly transmit, encourage, assist, or facilitate illegal robocalls, illegal spoofing, or fraud;
  • The applicant has fully complied with STIR/SHAKEN caller ID authentication, robocall mitigation plan requirements, and filed certification in the Robocall Mitigation Plan Database; and
  • Neither the applicant nor key personnel identified in the application are or have been subject to investigation for failure to comply with legislation concerning unlawful robocalls or unlawful spoofing.

In addition, VoIP providers must also disclose and keep current information about their ownership, with a particular emphasis on providers with more than 10% foreign equity/voting or controlling interest, as the FCC notes that illegal robocalling often originates abroad. Applicants with reportable foreign ownership will be removed from streamlined processing for a more in-depth application examination. Providers must provide an update to the FCC and any applicable state regarding any changes to reportable ownership within 30 days, including providers whose ownership becomes reportable.

Applicants will be required to certify compliance with public safety and access stimulation rules, as well as submit FCC filings in a timely manner. VoIP providers requesting numbers from a state’s Numbering Administrator must comply with the state’s laws and registration requirements for businesses requesting numbers in that state. Applicants must also include a signed declaration that the application is true and accurate.

If the authorization holder fails to comply with the FCC’s rules, no longer meets direct access authorization requirements (ex: no longer meeting the application certification requirements), or any authorized representative makes a false statement or certification to the FCC, the FCC may revoke their direct access authorizations. Similarly, the FCC may also do this if revoking or terminating access is in the public interest.

Providers who are currently authorized may continue to use their current numbers while they submit their updated ownership information, unless it is determined that their authorization must be revoked.

Upon submission of the above information, the application review, application rejection, and authorization revocation processes have been codified by the issued ruling.

This ruling is consistent with the FCC’s and other agency efforts to combat illegal robocalls. Because the use of VoIP software allows users to temporarily gain access to numbers, VoIP providers may be held accountable for enabling illegal robocalls. States can also enforce illegal robocalls using local caller IDs based on the information provided by the business when requesting such numbers.

The FCC seeks comment on their proposals in sections 80 to 94. Comments to the FCC are due thirty (30) days after the date of publication in the Federal Register.


*  Jennifer Tran contributed to this post.

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Michele is the Managing Partner at M&S and former Chief of the Ohio Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Section. Bringing more than two decades of experience in the consumer protection arena, she advises highly regulated businesses on a wide range of telemarketing, privacy, and other consumer protection matters.

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