FCC Issues Tentative Meeting Agenda Addressing Spoofing and Disabilities Access Before Federal Government Shutdown

Just before suspending most operations due to the ongoing partial federal government shutdown, the FCC announced its tentative agenda for its next open meeting, scheduled for January 30, 2019. While the January agenda is brief compared to the jam-packed meetings that typified 2018, the FCC plans to adopt items to advance new anti-spoofing measures combating manipulated caller ID information and take further action to address the management and handling of 911 calls for the IP Captioned Telephone Service (“IP CTS”) that aids communication by those with hearing loss. Rounding out the notable meeting items, the FCC would adopt a mechanism to phase down legacy high-cost support for price cap carriers as well as competitive carriers previously subject to the identical support rule” and transition such support to the winners of the recent Connect America Fund (“CAF”) Phase II auction.

You will find more details on the significant January meeting items after the break:

Expanding Anti-Spoofing Enforcement: The draft Notice of Proposed Rulemaking would seek comment on adopting anti-spoofing reforms mandated by the RAY BAUM’s Act passed last year. Specifically, the FCC plans to extend its authority to punish anti-spoofing violations for communications originating from foreign points to recipients within the United States. The FCC would argue that its existing authority, which is limited to communications initiated within the country, has hampered enforcement efforts against foreign operations that generate consumer complaints. The FCC also would seek comment on amending its anti-spoofing rules to cover some of the most widely-used forms of text messaging as well as all voice services that connect to the public switched telephone network. The FCC’s proposal would maintain the exemption for IP-enabled messaging services, such as the popular iMessage, Google Hangouts, WhatsApp, and Skype, which do not rely on the traditional telephone network. Finally, the FCC would ask what other changes it should adopt to better prevent the transmission of inaccurate or misleading caller ID information.

IP CTS User Registration and 911 Calling: The draft Report and Order, Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, and Order would require IP CTS providers to submit user data to the FCC’s database currently used to register users of the similar Video Relay Service. The draft argues such action is necessary to reduce waste, fraud, and abuse in the program, which has seen exponential growth in spending. Over a six-month period, all IP CTS providers (there currently are five) would be required to collect and submit user information like name, address, unique IP CTS equipment identifier, last four digits of social security number, and other data. The database would conduct an identity verification check and IP CTS providers would only be able to seek compensation for providing service to verified users. The FCC also would seek comment on streamlining the transmission of 911 calls made through IP CTS by reducing the information collection requirements currently imposed on service providers. Instead of having to provide detailed caller information to the relevant public safety answering point, service providers would instead connect the 911 call, provide a callback number for the user, and ensure the user receives captions on any callback. The FCC plans to waive the caller detail requirements for IP CTS service providers while it considers the proposed rule changes.

CAF Phase-Down and Transition: The draft Report and Order would establish a schedule to end CAF Phase I support for price cap carriers and competitive carriers that provided service to fixed locations under the old identical support rule,” transitioning such support to the winners of the CAF Phase II auction that concluded in August 2018. Phase I support currently received by price cap carriers would be eliminated beginning on the first day of the month following another provider’s authorization to receive Phase II support in an area. If the existing price cap carrier was the winning bidder in the Phase II auction, its support would be converted to Phase II support once the FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau authorizes support distribution for the area. Meanwhile, Phase I support currently received by the competitive carriers would be phased down over the course of two years. For the first 12 months following the authorization of a new CAF Phase II service provider for the area, the carrier would receive two-thirds of its current support. The following 12 months, the carrier would receive one-third of its current support. The support then would terminate. The FCC would continue to provide Phase I support to existing service providers in areas that did not receive any winning bids in the CAF Phase II auction. The FCC would offer legacy support recipients the option to decline further support, freeing them from many (but not all) of their existing high-cost service obligations.

Note that the FCC may revise its meeting agenda to add or remove items – or reschedule the meeting entirely – depending on how long the shutdown lasts. The shutdown prevents stakeholders from meeting with FCC staff about the proposed items and, while the FCC’s comment system remains open to accept new filings, the dockets will not be updated until after the agency resumes normal operations.