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Anti-Robocall Legislation: The TRACED Act

It’s not often that a federal law passes in the House of Representatives by an overwhelming majority vote of 417 to 3, and in the Senate by a simple voice vote. Congressional support was united by the growing need to combat the plague of nuisance calls. This was accomplished with S.151; Pallone-Thune Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (or TRACED) Act. The TRACED Act includes a key provision mandating that voice service providers use Caller ID authentication to prevent spoofing and is the first federal law designed to provide a comprehensive set of rules to curb unwanted nuisance calls. S.151 will make dialing more difficult for nuisance callers and financially perilous if caught. The TRACED Act also equips the government with several weapons to pursue bad actors:

  1. TRACED enables the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to litigate robocallers the first time they break the law.

  2. Telemarketing calls can only be made to consumers who have given permission or have a prior established relationship with the establishment.

  3. New consumer protection legislation increases the penalties for telemarketers that violate these laws. The FCC can now levy civil penalties of up to $10,000 per call.

  4. Previously, the statute of limitations lasted one year, but that period has been extended to four years, giving law enforcement much needed additional time to investigate and prosecute these individuals.

S.151 also addresses spoofed calls by requiring authenticated caller ID (DID/ANI). Authenticated caller ID utilizes digital tokens to ensure the inbound phone calling number is secure through a technology framework called STIR/SHAKEN. This prevents scammers from hiding their identity by spoofing the number that is displayed via caller ID.

The TRACED Act was signed into law at the end of 2019 and several carriers have made progress toward voluntarily meeting the STIR/SHAKEN implementation requirements. However, Ajit Pai, Chairman of the FCC, announced on March 6th, 2020, a mandatory implementation schedule of STIR/SHAKEN due to the lack of movement in widespread adoption. On March 31st, the FCC voted to officially approve this mandate. “Last year I demanded that major phone companies voluntarily deploy STIR/SHAKEN, and a number of them did,” Pai said. “But it’s clear that FCC action is needed to spur across-the-board deployment of this important technology.” The new schedule announced by the FCC requires major carriers to complete their STIR/SHAKEN implementations by July 20, 2021 while small and rural carriers have an additional year.

In addition to traditional landline carriers and mobile providers, companies that offer IP-based phone service over cable or fiber lines would have to comply. Tier 1 voice service providers such as AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon have all begun rolling out STIR/SHAKEN. In March 2019, AT&T and Comcast announced that they successfully tested the first STIR/SHAKEN - authenticated call between two different telecom networks.

This legislation is consumer-friendly, as the law requires voice service providers to include authentication and blocking services at no additional charge.

The TRACED Act ensures that ongoing improvements are made to combat nuisance calls by providing a framework to ensure the success of ongoing efforts. To help reduce the robocall volumes in the future, the law requires the FCC to conduct a series of studies and rule-makings to improve on these existing regulations.

The implementation of STIR/SHAKEN is one of the most critical aspects of the TRACED Act. In future blog posts this initiative will be discussed in greater detail in addition to how Telo is supporting these advancements.

The Caller ID product is advanced. Everything else is simple.