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In a comment provided to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the Federal Trade Commission expressed support for the FCC’s efforts to enable telecommunications providers to engage in call blocking at the network level to protect consumers from illegal calls. The FTC has long championed the development of technological solutions to thwart the rise in illegal calls and provider-based call blocking is a critical part of any long-term solution.

Provider-based call blocking at the network level is the most effective and efficient type of call blocking, as it stops illegal calls before they reach consumers. It also stops illegal calls from reaching any consumer, regardless of whether they have the newest cell phone or a traditional landline.

The FTC submitted its comment in response to an FCC notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) seeking input on rulemaking proposals that would authorize two categories of provider-based call blocking: 1) when the subscriber to a particular telephone number requests that telecommunications providers block calls originating from that number; and 2) when the originating number is invalid, unallocated, or unassigned. The FTC supports the NPRM’s proposed expansion of provider-based call-blocking authority to stop calls in these two categories.

In addition to support, the FTC comment also provides specific ideas the FCC may wish to consider during the rulemaking process. The comment highlights that the problem of illegal calls is broader than “illegal robocalls” and includes calls made by a live operator that are abusive, fraudulent, or unlawful. The FTC encourages the FCC to clarify that its efforts are intended to allow blocking of all “illegal calls” -- not just robocalls.

The comment also points out that when consumers or businesses find themselves the victims of illegal Caller ID spoofing, providers need to clearly communicate how to resolve the issue. The same holds true if a consumer or business finds their phone number inadvertently blocked by providers.

The FCC also seeks information on how to best authorize providers to block “presumptively illegal calls.” In developing standards to guide provider-based blocking of “presumptively illegal” calls, the FTC urged the FCC to allow for some provider flexibility, rather than putting in place a rigid standard, to help industry and law enforcement stay a step ahead of the unlawful callers.

The Commission vote approving transmission of the comment to the FCC was 2-0. The staff contact is Janice Kopec, Bureau of Consumer Protection, 202-326-2550.

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