Federal Communications Commission Update – January 2019

 

Geoffrey Starks Appointed to Commission; Commissioner Carr Reappointed  

In the final hours of the 115th Congress, the Senate voted to confirm the nomination of Geoffrey Starks to the last vacant FCC Commissioner seat.  The seat had been vacated by Commissioner Mignon Clyburn in early 2018.  Starks is no stranger to the FCC, having worked in the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau for three years, most recently as an assistant bureau chief.  Commissioner Brendan Carr was also reappointed by the Senate for an additional 5-year term. These confirmations complete the five-seat Commission, which now stands at three Republicans and two Democrats.

January FCC Agenda Announced

The FCC released the tentative agenda for its January meeting, which is scheduled for Wednesday, January 30th.  The agenda includes a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to amend the Truth in Caller ID Act (TCIA) rules to implement the anti-spoofing provisions of the Ray Baum’s Act (2018). These provisions would expand and clarify protections and prohibitions on misleading callers through inaccurate caller identification information. The proposal would also extend the Commission’s reach under the TCIA to include communications originating from outside of the United States, as well as include text messages and additional voice services. In addition to these proposed changes, the FCC will solicit comments and suggestions on the definitions of “text message,” “text messaging service,” “voice service,” “caller identification information,” and “caller identification service.”

Petition for Declaratory Judgment Sought on Soundboard Technology

North Star Alarm Services, LLC filed a Petition for Declaratory Ruling asking the FCC to clarify whether the use of soundboard technology is a violation of the TCPA’s prohibitions against placing certain calls without consent. Soundboard technology (sometimes referred to as avatar technology) allows an operator to utilize both prerecorded messages and the operator’s own voice when communicating with a call recipient. Though it does not define “artificial prerecorded voice,” the TCPA prohibits “initiat[ing] any telephone call to any residential telephone line using an artificial or prerecorded voice to deliver a message without the prior express consent of the called party.”

North Star’s petition states that “in order to establish a baseline national standard . . . the FCC must declare that:

  1. the use of soundboard technology does not constitute the use of an artificial or prerecorded voice that delivers a message under the TCPA; or, in the alternative,
  2. the use of soundboard technology on a one-to-one basis, whereby the soundboard agent conducts only one call with one individual at a single time, does not constitute the use of an artificial or prerecorded voice that delivers a message under the TCPA.”