May 23, 2019

S.151, Traced Act

NOTEWORTHY

Background: Many Americans routinely receive illegal and unwanted robocalls, and they are routinely cited by the FTC and FCC as their number-one category of complaints, with millions filed annually. One outside group cited by the FTC and FCC estimated that 4.1 billion robocalls were made in May 2018 alone.

Floor Situation: The Senate is expected to vote on passage of S. 151 today at 12:45 PM.

Executive Summary: S. 151 strengthens enforcement against robocalls, requires the adoption of basic technological measures to mitigate robocalling, and calls for further study to guide future anti-robocall measures.

NOTABLE BILL PROVISIONS

Section 2 – Forfeiture

Allows the FCC to impose civil forfeiture penalties for any person found by the FCC to be in violation of existing prohibitions on robocalls (specifically, section 227 of the Communications Act of 1934). Creates enhanced penalties for cases of intentional violations. Extends the statute of limitations for intentional violations of the restrictions against robocalling from one year to three years.

Directs the FCC to adopt rules implementing this section’s provision within 270 days of enactment. Requires the FCC to prepare an annual report to Congress on enforcement of laws, regulations, and policies relating to robocalls and spoofed calls.

Section 3 – Call authentication

Directs the FCC to adopt rules requiring telephone providers to use call authentication technologies (the STIR/SHAKEN authentication framework) to combat “neighborhood spoofing,” where robocalls appear to be coming from a local area code. Requires the FCC to create a “safe harbor,” under which a carrier could be protected from liability for unintended or inadvertent blocking of calls or for the unintended or inadvertent misidentification of the level of trust for individual calls based on information provided by the call authentication framework. Requires FCC to issue a report on the efficacy of the authentication framework within three years of enactment and every three years thereafter.

Section 4 – Protections from spoofed calls

Directs the FCC to initiate a rulemaking within one year of enactment to help protect subscribers receiving unwanted calls or text messages from callers using unauthenticated numbers.

Section 5 – Interagency working group

Directs the attorney general, in consultation with the chairman of the FCC, to create an interagency working group to study prosecution of robocall violations.

Section 6 – Access to number resources

Requires the FCC to commence a proceeding within 180 days of enactment to determine whether it can reduce access to phone numbers by potential violators of anti-robocall rules. Imposes liability on individuals who knowingly aid parties in obtaining number resources.

ADMINISTRATION POSITION

A Statement of Administration Policy on the new bill text is not available at this time.

COST

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the measure would carry a cost of $1 million over fiscal years 2019 – 2024. CBO notes, however, the FCC has authority to collect fees to offset its regulatory costs, so “the net cost would be negligible.” CBO also estimates that any new penalties that the FCC may collect under the bill would not total a significant amount. These penalties would be treated as federal revenue.