In the TRACED (Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence) Act, Congress gave the Federal Communications Commission new tools to fight unwanted, and often illegal, robocalls, the top consumer complaint reported to the FCC annually.
The FCC has worked hard to meet the TRACED Act’s deadlines and quickly provide Americans with new protections against unwanted robocalls.
Below you can learn more about the TRACED Act and the FCC's efforts to
Caller ID Authentication Tools
Caller ID authentication allows voice service providers to verify that the caller ID information transmitted with a particular call matches the caller’s real number, which in turn helps to determine whether the call should be blocked or labeled. Widespread deployment of caller ID authentication will reduce the effectiveness of illegal spoofed caller ID, allow law enforcement to identify bad actors more easily, and better enable phone companies to block illegal calls before those calls reach consumers.
Implementation of STIR/SHAKEN
The TRACED Act required the FCC to mandate the STIR/SHAKEN caller identification framework. As noted above, STIR/SHAKEN enables phone companies to verify that the caller ID information transmitted with a call matches the caller’s real phone number.
- The Commission adopted a Report and Order on March 31, 2020 mandating that originating and terminating phone companies implement STIR/SHAKEN in the IP (internet protocol) portions of their networks by June 30, 2021.
- The Commission adopted the Second Report and Order on September 29, 2020 that further implemented STIR/SHAKEN and protected consumers against malicious caller ID spoofing.
- The Commission released a Public Notice on December 23, 2020 that announced exemptions granted to certain providers pursuant to Sec. 4 of the TRACED Act and the STIR/SHAKEN rules.
- The Commission submitted its required STIR/SHAKEN Implementation Report to Congress on December 29, 2020.
- The Commission announced that the largest voice service providers are using STIR/SHAKEN caller ID authentication standards in their IP networks, in accordance with the FCC’s June 30, 2021 deadline.
Assessing Barriers to Implementing STIR/SHAKEN
The TRACED Act required the Commission to assess the burdens and barriers providers may face in implementing the STIR/SHAKEN framework on their networks and permitted the Commission to grant extensions for phone companies that face undue hardship in implementation, so long as those companies perform robocall mitigation to ensure they are not the source of illegal robocalls.
- The Commission sought comment as part of a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking adopted on March 31, 2020.
- The Commission provided the required assessment in a Second Report and Order adopted on September 29, 2020, and granted extensions in compliance with the STIR/SHAKEN deadline for certain categories of phone companies, including small companies with 100,000 or fewer customers.
- The Commission launched the Robocall Mitigation Database in April 2021, through which phone companies file certifications of the status of their STIR/SHAKEN implementation and describe their robocall mitigation efforts.
- The Commission adopted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in May 2021 which proposed and sought comment on shortening the extension granted to certain small phone companies that originate an especially large amount of calls.
The TRACED Act required the FCC to aggregate and share information on best practices for implementation of STIR/SHAKEN technology.
- The Commission released a Public Notice on December 22, 2020 regarding best practices for implementation of effective caller ID authentication framework.
Access to Number Resources
The TRACED Act required the FCC to commence a proceeding to examine whether and how our policies regarding access to both toll free and non-toll free numbering resources can be modified to help reduce access to numbers by potential perpetrators of illegal robocalls.
- The Commission sought comments on these issues as part of a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking adopted on March 31, 2020.
Consumer Protection Tools
Call blocking is a tool used by phone companies to stop illegal and unwanted calls from reaching your phone. The TRACED Act required the FCC to ensure that both callers and consumers are provided with transparency and effective redress when wanted calls are blocked inadvertently.
- The Commission sought comment on call blocking initiatives in a July 16, 2020 Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.
- The Commission adopted the Fourth Report and Order on December 29, 2020 that
- gives phone companies additional flexibility for blocking illegal calls before they reach consumer phones;
- requires terminating phone companies that block calls to immediately notify the caller that the call has been blocked;
- requires terminating phone companies that block calls on an opt-in or opt-out basis to disclose to their subscribers a list of blocked calls upon request;
- requires terminating phone companies to provide a status update to the party that filed the dispute within 24 hours when a calling party disputes whether blocking its calls is appropriate; and
- requires that the point of contact terminating phone companies have established to handle blocking disputes also handle contacts from callers that are adversely affected by information provided by caller ID authentication seeking to verify the authenticity of their calls.
Safe Harbor for Blocking Calls
The TRACED Act required the Commission to establish rules and a safe harbor for phone companies to provide call blocking based on the information provided by the caller identification framework.
- The Commission sought comment as part of a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking adopted on July 16, 2020.
- The Commission adopted a Fourth Report and Order on December 29, 2020 that expanded the safe harbor to include network-based blocking based on reasonable analytics that incorporate caller ID authentication information designed to identify calls that are highly likely to be illegal.
Unauthenticated Number Protection Proceeding
The TRACED Act required the FCC to commence a proceeding to help protect a subscriber from receiving unwanted calls or text messages from a caller using an unauthenticated number.
- The Commission commenced its proceeding in a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking adopted on July 16, 2020.
TCPA Exemption Review
The TRACED Act required the FCC to review and amend existing exemptions to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).
- The Commission adopted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on October 1, 2020 that sought comment on whether to amend any of the previously adopted exemptions to comply with the TRACED Act.
- The Commission adopted the Report and Order on December 29, 2020 that:
- codifies the exemptions for calls to wireless numbers into the rules in order to make those exemptions easier to understand for both callers and consumers;
- amends the exemptions for calls made to residential telephone lines to identify the classes of parties that may make such calls, the classes of parties that may be called, and the number of such calls that may be made; and
- concludes that the conditions the Commission has already imposed on exemptions for calls made to wireless telephone numbers are sufficient to satisfy the new provisions in the TRACED Act.
Reassigned Number Database Report
The FCC's Reassigned Numbers Database (RND) is designed to prevent a consumer from getting unwanted calls intended for someone who previously held their phone number. Once operational in 2021, callers can use the database to determine whether a telephone number may have been reassigned so they can avoid calling consumers who do not want to receive the calls. The TRACED Act required the FCC to provide a report to Congress on the status of the RND.
- The Commission submitted the required Report to Congress on December 4, 2020 and publicly released it on December 8, 2020.
One Ring Scams
The Traced Act required the FCC to initiate a proceeding on One-Ring Scams, which are scams that trick a consumer into calling back a number that charges the consumer for the call. The TRACED Act also required the Commission to report to Congress on the One-Ring proceeding.
- The Commission adopted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on April, 24, 2020.
- The Commission adopted a Report and Order on November 24, 2020 clarifying that phone companies may lawfully block calls from numbers that are used to perpetrate one-ring scams. The Commission also ruled that phone companies that use reasonable analytics in good faith to identify and block one-ring scam calls will not be liable if they inadvertently block wanted calls.
- The new rules became effective on February 12, 2021.
- The Commission reported to Congress on December 7, 2020 regarding the status of the proceeding as required.
Hospital Robocall Protection Group
The TRACED Act required the FCC to establish the Hospital Robocall Protection Group (HRPG) in order to develop best practices to protect hospitals from robocalls.
- The Commission released a Public Notice on March 25, 2020 seeking nominations for the HRPG.
- The Commission established the HRPG on June 25, 2020 and it held its first meeting on June 27, 2020.
- The HRPG adopted its Best Practices on December 14, 2020.
- The Commission released a Public Notice on January 11, 2021 seeking comment on the voluntary adoption of HRPG Best Practices.
- The Commission concluded the proceeding, releasing a Public Notice on June 11, 2021 assessing voluntary adoption of HRPG Best Practices.
Enforcement Rule Revisions
The TRACED Act required the FCC to modify sections of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) to enhance the Commission’s enforcement capabilities.
- The FCC adopted an Order on May 1, 2020 to implement the required modifications to Section 227 of the Communications Act that:
- allow the FCC to impose a penalty for robocall violations without first issuing a citation;
- provide additional penalties for intentional unlawful robocall violations;
- extend the statute of limitations period to four years for intentional robocall violations; and
- extend the statute of limitations period to four years for any spoofing violations.
The TRACED Act required the Commission to establish a registration process for a single consortium that conducts private-led efforts to trace back the origin of suspected unlawful robocalls and to seek public comment on traceback efforts before issuing an Annual Report.
- The Commission sought comment on the traceback consortium registration process in a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking adopted on February 5, 2020.
- The Commission adopted a Report and Order and Further Notice regarding the registration process on March 27, 2020.
- The Commission selected the single consortium registered to conduct private-led traceback efforts via a Report and Order adopted on July 27, 2020.
- The Commission issued a Public Notice on July 27, 2020 seeking comment on private-led efforts to trace back the source of suspected unlawful robocalls.
- The required Annual Report followed on December 23, 2020.
Streamlined Process for Sharing of Robocall/Spoofing Violations
The TRACED Act required the Commission to create a process to streamline the ways that a private entity may voluntarily share with the Commission information relating to calls or text messages that violate laws regarding robocalls or spoofing.
- The Commission adopted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on December 8, 2020.
- The Commission adopted a Report and Order on June 17, 2021 that directed the Enforcement Bureau to implement an online web portal where private entities may submit information about suspected robocalling violations.
Study/Report to Congress on VOIP Requirements for Traceback
The TRACED Act required the Commission to conduct a study and report to Congress on whether to require a covered VoIP service to provide the Commission current contact information and to retain records relating to calls transmitted over its service sufficient to enable traceback.
- The Commission submited the report to Congress on June 30, 2021.
Interagency Enforcement Working Group
The TRACED Act required the FCC to participate in an interagency working group to study enforcement efforts.
- The Commission participates in the Department of Justice's Interagency Working Group to study Government prosecution of violations of Sec. 227(b) of the Communications Act. Commission staff consulted with DOJ on its required Report to Congress.
Annual Reports on Enforcement
The TRACED Act required the FCC to report to Congress on (1) the Commission's robocall complaints and enforcement activities; (2) the Enforcement Bureau's coordination with the U.S. Attorney General on robocall enforcement efforts; and (3) private-led traceback efforts.
- The Commission released its required Annual Reports (in a consolidated report) on December 23, 2020.
STIR/SHAKEN Review/Assessment Report to Congress
The TRACED Act required that the Commission provide to Congress every three years an assessment of the efficacy of call authentication frameworks and on any actions the Commission finds necessary to replace them.
- Due by December 30, 2022 (and every three years thereafter).
Annual Public Notice Seeking Data on Private-Led Traceback Efforts
The TRACED Act required the Commission to issue a notice to the public seeking additional information on private-led traceback efforts.
- Due by July 27, 2021.