TCPA Regulatory Update: FCC Allows Default Call Blocking Services, Plans SHAKEN/STIR Summit

After Addressing Concerns from Stakeholders, FCC Adopts Revised Declaratory Ruling and Third Further Notice on Default Call Blocking

It’s been a busy month on the robocall front! Since our last monthly digest, the FCC circulated a draft and later adopted a final version of a Declaratory Ruling and Third Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking addressing robocall blocking. In the Declaratory Ruling, the FCC clarified that voice service providers may offer default call blocking to their customers, so long as their customers are informed and have the opportunity to opt-out of the blocking…

On June 6, 2019, the Federal Communications Commission will vote on the most aggressive steps to date to prevent consumers from receiving unwanted and disruptive robocalls. The Telephone Consumer Protection Act and the FCC’s rules impose limits on the use of automated telemarketing calls and subject entities making such calls in violation of those limitations to government-imposed sanctions (including monetary fines) and to civil litigation. Notwithstanding those rules and the threat of sanctions and class action lawsuits, robocalls persist and remain the number one source of consumer complaints to the FCC…


The US Senate today approved the TRACED Act, S. 151, as reported by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, by a vote of 97-1. Only Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) voted against the bill. Senate floor action came after the Commerce Committee filed its report on the bill, S. Rep. No 116-41. As previously noted, the TRACED Act would increase potential fines for illegal robocalls, extend the statute of limitations for prosecuting violators of the TCPA, and require the implementation of the SHAKEN/STIR call authentication framework by voice service providers.

It also–and most critically–creates a working group including most every federal agency with an enforcement arm designed to enhance regulatory enforcement of the TCPA. This creates a clear and present danger that regulators will become more involved enforcing the statute in the near term


The House Energy and Commerce Committee held a hearing entitled “Legislating to Stop the Onslaught of Annoying Robocalls” on April 30, 2019, that focused on seven bills pending before the Committee. While lawmakers and witnesses generally agreed that illegal and abusive robocalls are a problem, the fix or immediate solution in the form of new legislation was less clear.

Chairman Mike Doyle (D-PA) opened the hearing by summarizing the current state of pervasive robocalls and calling for voice service providers to make available call-blocking services to all customers free of charge. Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) shared this sentiment, emphasizing the need for a bipartisan solution with wide support. As Walden observed, robocalling is a topic that comes up at every single town hall meeting held in recent months. Several bill sponsors made opening statements regarding their respective bills, which we summarize briefly below…


Just over two weeks into the 116th Congress’s session, two powerful, telecommunications-focused Senators have reintroduced a bi-partisan piece of legislation that, if enacted, would amend the TCPA to provide for more enhanced administrative enforcement powers and increased civil penalties.

On Thursday, January 18, Senator John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet, and Senator Ed Markey (D-Mass.), author of the TCPA, reintroduced the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (“TRACED”) Act (S. 151).  Originally introduced in November 2018, the bill proposes several changes to the TCPA that, according to the Senators, are designed to ramp up enforcement against unwanted robocalls and text messages and “give the FCC more flexibility to enforce the law…”

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March 11, 2019

Hold on to your hats.  The TRACED Act (S. 151), which encourages the FCC and other federal agencies to increase enforcement of the TCPA, is gaining serious bipartisan support.  We’re heading into dangerous territory.

Reintroduced in January by Senators Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and John Thune (R-S.D.), the TRACED Act is billed as legislation that will finally “stop the scourge of robocalls” that impact millions of Americans each year.  Last Friday, ten additional co-sponsors signed onto the bill: Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).  54 state and territory attorneys general—from California to Mississippi— all commissioners of the FCC and FTC, along with industry and consumer groups have also thrown their support behind the bill…

February 20, 2019

While the FCC continues to tread carefully in evaluating the thorny issue of how broadly to interpret  the TCPA’s definition of “automated telephone dialing system,” particularly as it confronts proposed legislation that, if adopted, would ultimately expand the reach of the TPCA, the Commission has decided to move forward with some less controversial issues.  In particular, the Commission’s leadership took two actions last week as part of an effort to address mounting concerns about the influx of unwanted and illegal robocalls, particularly including the prevalent use of fake caller ID information to dupe consumers into answering the phone when a telemarketer calls or, even worse, providing sensitive information based on a false impression that they are speaking to a reputable company or government agency…  

February 15, 2019

On February 14, 2019, the FCC’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau released its first report on illegal robocalls (“the Robocall Report”) to address the “onslaught of unwanted calls that has led a lot of consumers to stop answering the phone altogether.” This report is compiled based on data points from more than forty comments submitted by voice service providers, trade associations, analytics companies, and consumers. The Robocall Report provided summary analysis on the following issues…

February 15, 2019

Since Chairman Ajit Pai took office, combatting illegal robocalls and malicious spoofing has become the FCC’s top consumer protection priority. In anticipation of yesterday’s Open Commission Meeting, Chairman Pai issued another press release on Wednesday, calling for “a robust caller authentication system to combat illegal caller ID spoofing” and criticizing carriers that lacked commitment to deploy the SHAKEN/STIR framework by the end of 2019. Between Chairman Pai’s 2018 demands that the FCC make real progress in call authentication and yesterday’s Open Meeting to vote on its draft Proposed Rulemaking to amend existing Truth in Caller ID Rules, Chairman Pai solicited details from several large telecommunications carriers about their caller ID authentication plans. These carriers’ submissions are available here

November 27, 2018

Sen. John Thune (R-SD), chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), a member of the Committee and author of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), recently introduced S. 3655, the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence Act (the TRACED Act), to prevent illegal robocall scams.  In brief, the bill would extend the statute of limitations for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to pursue robocall scammers and others who intentionally violate the law, impose additional penalties on such violators, require call authentication and blocking technologies, and establish an interagency working group to explore further ways to prosecute robocallers who intentionally violate the law…