FCC Proposes Caller ID Rule Changes to Address Threatening Calls

The FCC today unanimously proposed changes to its caller ID rules to enable called parties and law enforcement to obtain blocked caller ID information for calls that involve threats “of a serious and imminent nature.” The Common Carrier docket 91-281 notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) would leave in place an emergency, temporary waiver granted earlier this year by the FCC’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau to Jewish community centers (JCCs) and carriers that serve them from the Commission’s prohibition on terminating carriers’ providing the called party with the number from which an interstate call originated if the caller has invoked caller ID blocking for the call or the line (TR Daily, March 3).

The NPRM says that the waivers will remain in place “until the Commission determines whether to amend its rules. … The record provides good cause to maintain that waiver because of the large number of recent threatening calls targeting these facilities, as well as the substantial disruption and fear caused as a result.” Comments on the NPRM will be due 30 days after publication in the “Federal Register.”  Reply comments will be due 30 days after initial comments.

The proposal includes measures aimed at protecting privacy by limiting disclosure of blocked caller ID information to “law enforcement personnel and others responsible for the safety and security of the threatened party,” the order says. The information would only be disclosed after law enforcement determines that the call meets the threshold for a “threatening call,” Nellie Foosaner, attorney-adviser in the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau’s Consumer Policy Division, said in presenting the order at today’s FCC meeting.

The NPRM also seeks comment on whether to extend the existing caller ID exemption for public agencies that deliver emergency services “to non-public entities that provide emergency services such as private ambulance companies.”

All three Commissioners emphasized in their statements that there are legitimate privacy concerns for blocking caller ID information in some circumstances, such as calls from a domestic crisis center, as well as the public safety concerns regarding threatening calls that would justify the disclosure of blocked caller ID information that prompted the NPRM.  “The notice before us seems to strike the right balance,” FCC Commissioner Mike O’Rielly said. —Lynn Stanton, lynn.stanton@wolterskluwer.com

Courtesy TRDaily