Robocall-Blocking, Contraband Cellphone Items Top Tentative Agenda for March 23 FCC Meeting

March 2, 2017–FCC Chairman Ajit Pai plans to ask his colleagues to approve six items at their March 23 meeting, ncluding actions that would enable service providers to block calls that “spoof” unassigned or invalid phone numbers, that would ease the regulatory burden on deploying new wireless technologies such as LTE, and that would help correctional facilities deal with contraband cellphones.

Also on the tentative agenda are items aimed at improving video relay services (VRS) used by deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals; expanding television channel-sharing opportunities for broadcasters other than those who returned spectrum for the incentive auction; and the elimination of what Chairman Pai said are “outdated” reporting requirements for providers of international telecommunications services.

The FCC released the draft versions of all six items on the March 23 meeting page on its website, in an expansion of the procedural reform pilot launched with the release of two draft items for the February meeting (see separate story).

The robocall draft notice of proposed rulemaking and notice of inquiry (NOI) released in CG docket 17-59 would propose rules to allow providers to “block calls when the subscriber to a particular telephone number requests that calls originating from that number be blocked. Second, we seek comment on proposed rules authorizing providers to block calls from three categories of numbers: invalid numbers, valid numbers that are not allocated to a voice service provider, and valid numbers that are allocated but not assigned to a subscriber,” according to the text released today.

The NOI would seek “comment on whether and how to create a safe harbor for providers from their FCC-imposed call completion obligations when they rely on objective criteria to prevent fraudulent, illegal, or spoofed robocalls from reaching consumers” and “on safeguards the Commission should put in place to minimize blocking of lawful calls,” according to the fact sheet.

The Commission also plans to consider a second report and order, report and order, and second further notice in WT dockets 12-40, 10-112, and 16-138 to eliminate outdated cellular service regulations that make it difficult for companies to deploy advanced services such as LTE. “These reforms would reduce barriers to innovation and investment and ease administrative burdens, so that licensees and the Commission can use resources more efficiently to serve the public,” the FCC said in a fact sheet on the item. “The rules would also promote regulatory consistency because the Cellular licensing and technical rules would be akin to those in place for other commercial wireless service bands.”

The new rules would (1) allow cellular licensees to use the same power across a band; (2) “promote coexistence of Cellular and neighboring public safety systems by engaging stakeholders via a public forum and retaining our interference resolution rules and procedures”; (3) “treat Cellular consistent with other commercial wireless services by conforming rules related to power measurement, out of band emissions, field strength, and discontinuance of operations”; and (4) “eliminate unnecessary rules and burdens related to application filings, domestic and international coordination, and comparative renewal,” a fact sheet said.

The further notice would (1) “propose to eliminate unnecessary rules and burdens related to records retention and production, operators at control points, and employment reports”; and (2) “seek comment on whether to simplify and consolidate our rules for Cellular and other commercial wireless services.”

The item follows up on a report and order and further notice adopted in 2014 (TRDaily, Nov. 10, 2014) and a 2012 NPRM (TRDaily, Feb. 15, 2012).

Comments on the further notice would be due 30 days after “Federal Register” publication and replies 30 days after that.

A report and order and further notice of proposed rulemaking in GN docket 13-111 would simplify the FCC’s rules for contraband interdiction systems (CISs) used to detect contraband wireless devices in correctional institutions, which has been of particular interest to Mr. Pai. “It’s high time to take action on that record, which is fully complete and robust,” Mr. Pai said in his blog posting today. The item would follow up on a notice of proposed rulemaking adopted in 2013 that sought comments on proposed changes to the FCC’s regulations to enable the development of technological solutions to combat contraband wireless devices in correctional facilities (TRDaily, May 1, 2013).

Courtesy TRDaily