'Fines alone aren't enough:' FCC threatens to blacklist voice providers for flouting robocall rules

Jessica Rosenworcel, Chairwoman of the Federal Communications Commission testifies during a House Energy and Commerce Committee Subcommittee hearing on March 31, 2022. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

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The Federal Communications Commission is threatening to kick seven voice-over IP providers out of its database of trusted carriers for failing to implement safeguards against robocalls.

The threat means that compliant providers would have to stop carrying offending companies’ traffic, putting a halt to any calls from their users.

“This is a new era. If a provider doesn’t meet its obligations under the law, it now faces expulsion from America’s phone networks. Fines alone aren’t enough,” FCC chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement accompanying the announcement. “Providers that don’t follow our rules and make it easy to scam consumers will now face swift consequences.”

It’s the first such enforcement action by the agency to reduce the growing problem of robocalls since call ID verification protocols known as “STIR/SHAKEN” went fully into effect this summer.

The commission created the protocols, alongside a Robocall Mitigation Database of certified voice providers, as part of its implementation of the 2019 Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act. The regulation requires that companies in the database certify they are following the FCC’s robocall mitigation practices.

Companies that received enforcement notices from the FCC include Akabis, Cloud4, Global UC, Horizon Technology Group, Morse Communications, Sharon Telephone Company and SW Arkansas Telecommunications and Technology. The companies now have two weeks to make a compelling argument to the FCC as to why they shouldn’t be removed.

“These providers have fallen woefully short and have now put at risk their continued participation in the U.S. communications system,” Loyaan A. Egal, acting Chief of the Enforcement Bureau, said in a statement. “While we’ll review their responses, we will not accept superficial gestures given the gravity of what is at stake.”

FCC Chairwoman Rosenworcel expressed frustrations in July that the agency lacked the ability to collect its own fines from offenders, instead relying on the Justice Department to pursue enforcement.

The FCC could pursue similar enforcement against SMS-based spam if it chooses to expand its STIR/SHAKEN requirements to the growing scourge of spam text messages. The agency is currently exploring taking those actions.

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FCC, robocall, spam
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