Robocal Blocking, Contraband Cellphone Items Top Agenda for March 23 FCC Meeting

March 16, 2017—The FCC announced today that Commissioners at their March 23 meeting are scheduled to consider six items, including those to enable service providers to block calls that “spoof” unassigned or invalid phone numbers, ease the regulatory burden on deploying new wireless technologies such as LTE, and help correctional facilities deal with contraband cellphones.

Also on the agenda are items aimed at improving video relay services (VRS) used by deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals; expanding TV channel-sharing opportunities for broadcasters other than those that returned spectrum for the incentive auction; and eliminating of what FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said are “outdated” reporting requirements for providers of international telecommunications services. The “sunshine” notice released today also said that Commissioners are scheduled to get an update from the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau on its inquiry into a nationwide 911 outage involving AT&T, Inc., earlier this month (TRDaily, March 9).

Also on the agenda for the meeting is a “consent” agenda with three Media Bureau items. Those items will not be presented individually.

The robocall draft notice of proposed rulemaking and notice of inquiry (NOI) 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 when the item was circulated (TRDaily, March 2).

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 a 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report and order, report and order, and second further notice in WT dockets 12-40, 10-112, and 16-138 to eliminate outdated cellular service regulations that make it difficult for companies to deploy advanced services such as LTE.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,” the 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.”

A report and order and further notice 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. The report and order would streamline the FCC’s process to allow CIS companies to receive authorization more quickly. It also would require wireless carriers to cooperate with facilities and CIS operators, which must secure arrangements with each carrier to deploy technology in a facility. Under the order, the FCC would designate an ombudsperson who would serve as the single point of contact for CIS operators and wireless carriers.

In the further notice, the FCC would seek comment on whether it should require carriers to disable contraband devices in correctional facilities and, if so, how the process would work. The Commission also would solicit opinions on whether carriers should identify and disable those devices themselves and whether other technological solutions are feasible to tackle the problem.

The VRS draft report and order, NOI, and further notice in CG dockets 10-51 and 03-123 would authorize, “on a trial basis, (1) sending legal, medical, and computer support calls to interpreters who have special skill in interpreting technical conversations, and (2) bringing in qualified deaf interpreters to help on calls from people with limited signing ability or cognitive and motor disabilities,” according to a fact sheet.

The draft order would also “direct FCC staff to publish VRS providers’ speed-of-response history to help consumers as they shop among providers” and make “video phone numbers available to hearing people who know ASL, to allow direct-dialed video calls with deaf and hard-of-hearing consumers.” And it would authorize “a pilot program for home-based interpreting of VRS calls.”

The draft NOI would seek input on “the development of new service quality metrics for VRS in order to help the FCC and consumers evaluate competing services” and the draft FNPRM would propose a four-year plan for VRS compensation; call-validation procedures aimed at preventing waste, fraud, and abuse”; and making “video phone numbers available so that deaf and hard-of-hearing VRS users can place direct-dialed video calls to business and government customer support centers.”

The channel-sharing draft report and order in GN docket 12-268 and MB dockets 03-185 and 15-137 would “allow full power stations with auction-related CSAs [channel-sharing agreements] to become sharees (i.e., stations that relinquish their spectrum usage rights in order to share a channel with a ‘sharer’ or host station) outside of the incentive auction context so that they can continue to operate if their auction-related CSAs expire or otherwise terminate,” according to a fact sheet.

The draft order would also “permit Class A stations to be sharees outside the auction context even if they are not party to an auction-related CSA.” It would also allow secondary stations “to channel-share with another secondary station or with a full power or Class A station. This new flexibility would give displaced secondary stations more channel options in the post-auction TV bands and might reduce construction and operating costs for resource-constrained stations, including small, minority-owned, and niche stations,” the fact sheet said.

Full-power and secondary sharee and sharer-host stations would have the same carriage rights they would have if they were not sharing, and each sharing station would be licensed separately, retain its own call sign, and “independently be subject to all of the Commission’s rules.”

The part 43 reporting requirements draft NPRM in IB dockets 17-55 and 16-131 proposes the elimination of traffic and revenue reports and the streamlining of circuit capacity reports.” – Lynn Stanton,, and Paul Kirby,

Courtesy TRDaily