FCC Opens Spoofing Proceeding

In response to the passage of anti-spoofing legislation late last year, the FCC recently adopted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to tighten rules relating to the spoofing” of caller ID information. The Commission is seeking comments in late April and early May, which would make it tough for the Commission to meet the legislation’s six-month deadline for the adoption of implementing rules.

The NPRM contains a surprising proposal to bypass the ordinary enforcement processes the Commission uses. See below for that and other highlights of the proposal.

With respect to the caller’s liability, the NPRM closely tracks the statutory language. The Commission proposes a new rule to prohibit any person or entity from displaying misleading or inaccurate caller ID information with the intent to defraud, cause harm, or wrongfully obtain anything of value.”

With respect to the service provider’s liability, the Commission seeks comment on the Department of Justice’s proposal to require service providers to verify that the subscriber has authority over the number to be transmitted via the service. The Commission did not take a stance on the merits of the proposal in the NPRM, however.

With respect to VoIP services, the Commission disagreed with the Department of Justice -- which sought an interpretation that would apply the rules to non-interconnected VoIP -- and proposed to apply the rules only to those services meeting its existing definition of interconnected VoIP.

Most notably, however, the Commission proposes new enforcement provisions that expand the FCC’s traditional jurisdiction over entities that do not hold FCC licenses or authorizations. As we’ve noted before, for non-licensed entities, the FCC ordinarily must proceed via a warning first, and may impose a fine only for conduct that occurs after the warning. With respect to spoofing, however, the FCC concludes that the lack of a reference to this procedure in the Truth in Caller ID Act suggests that Congress intended to give the Commission the authority to proceed expeditiously to stop and, were appropriate, assess a forfeiture against,” unlawful spoofing. Therefore, the FCC proposes that it may impose fines for first-time violations of the Act’s restrictions.

Comments on the proposal are due April 18; replies on May 3.

The NPRM is available here. An Erratum also was released by the FCC.