FCC to Curb Robocallers’ Access to Phone Numbers Through Updated VoIP Provider Rules

On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) asked for public comment on a new proposal concerning how to restrict phone number access for illegal robocall perpetrators. According to the commission’s press release, the proposed rules and comment request are part of ongoing efforts to stem the tide of unwanted and illegal robocalls, a perennial problem as an FCC report explained earlier this summer.

In particular, the proposal would update commission rules governing interconnected Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) providers’ direct access to phone numbers. The rules aim to address problems arising from the growth of widely available VoIP software that permits miscreants to make spoofed robocalls with “minimal technical experience and cost.” In line with Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence Act (TRACED Act) directives, the rules would require VoIP providers applying for direct access to numbers to abide by certain anti-robocalling requirements.

The proposed rules would also safeguard “finite numbering resources,” protect from national security risks, reduce the possibility of regulatory arbitrage, and further promote public safety. In addition, the executive branch would have to review applications submitted by foreign entities seeking direct access to numbers.

On the same day, the FCC adopted new rules setting forth a review process for actions affecting a voice service provider’s ability to comply with anti-spoofing caller ID authentication rules to curb malicious spoofing and scam robocalls.

The announcement follows the commission’s June 30 rollout of the STIR/SHAKEN protocol, standards that “serve as a common digital language used by phone networks, allowing valid information to pass from provider to provider.” The new rules reportedly allow providers aggrieved by an adverse decision to appeal, ensuring due process and fair oversight for all STIR/SHAKEN ecosystem participants.