Recent activity on pending and proposed robocall rules

As 2021 winds down, there’s been a flurry of activity on pending and proposed rules for robocall mitigation and SHAKEN call authentication. Here’s a quick recap.

Proposed small provider SHAKEN extension changes

The FCC Wireline Competition Bureau asked for comments on the SHAKEN extensions for small providers and providers that can’t obtain an SPC token necessary to participate in SHAKEN.

Comments and reply comments were filed in November. Here are a few highlights:

  • WTA commented that its members were reporting first year SHAKEN implementation costs around $50,000 - $100,000 and annual costs around $40,000. TDM interconnects are a problem.
  • CCA wrote that small providers acting in good faith should be given the original time allowed. TDM interconnects are a problem.
  • The National Consumer Law Center suggested that the extension should be based upon compliance. The FCC should act faster, with stricter enforcement, against noncompliant providers.
  • NTCA wrote that small providers still face an undue cost burden for SHAKEN implementation. TDM interconnects are a problem.

Proposed gateway provider rules

The FCC asked for comments on proposed new rules for gateway providers to do both SHAKEN and robocall mitigation on calls with U.S. calling numbers that they bring into the U.S. telephone network.

At first glance, this might seem like a simple, straightforward suggestion. As the saying goes, “Not so fast.” The FNPRM covers a lot of ground in 61 pages, including:

  • How should we define gateway provider?
  • How can a gateway provider know their customer? Who is the customer?
  • Are there any loopholes in the proposed definitions or rules that could be exploited?

Comments are due December 10, 2021, and reply comments are due January 10, 2022. They’ve just started trickling in, and there’s already a lot to absorb.

  • AB Handshake said the rules should require Out-of-Band Caller ID Authentication to get around the non-IP network limitations, which undermine SHAKEN effectiveness.
  • ATIS recapped recent standards and technical reports, including SHAKEN for TDM, cross-border SHAKEN, calls with diversion, such as toll-free numbers, and others. ATIS did not advocate for policies. They observed that gateway providers usually don’t know anything about the originator. They also noted that cross-border SHAKEN can extend the trust framework to other countries.
  • ZipDX provided a very in-depth, thorough discussion of many questions raised in the FNPRM. Their overarching theme was that making the rules too specific and granular would be a mistake. Clever fraudsters are too good at gaming the system. Instead, ZipDX urged the FCC to use broader definitions that encompass all use cases where robocalling occurs and levy rapid, harsh enforcement actions against violators. We think this is a thoughtful piece and worth reading.

Pending mandate for immediate blocking notification

The FCC issued a mandate in December 2020 that providers must send immediate blocking notification starting January 1, 2022, using either SIP 607/608 for SIP calls or ISUP 21 for TDM calls.

There have been many comments going back and forth on this. We described these methods and summarized the arguments for and against the January 1 due date in a previous blog post.

The argument against is that many carriers aren’t ready, and they won’t be ready on January 1. If the mandate stays, they’ll have to stop blocking robocalls. Advocates have asked that the rule be changed to allow SIP 603 for blocking notification instead.

The counterargument is that SIP 603 is inadequate for facilitating redress. If your call was blocked and you want redress, a SIP 603 isn’t going to help you do that. Advocates for this argument ask the FCC to keep the SIP 607/608 and ISUP 21 requirements but push the deadline back six months.

No word yet from the FCC on this. There’s a note on the FCC Items on Circulation webpage about a “waiver order.” Is that about this issue? We’ll see.

Our thoughts

Looks like 2021 might go out with a bang, not a whimper. There’s a lot going on. Here are our thoughts:

The cost of SHAKEN arguments used to advocate for keeping the small provider extension seem rather high for a small provider with low call volume. These folks should shop around—they can probably do much better than that.

The proposed rules would accelerate the timeline for providers that are more likely to transit illegal robocalls. SHAKEN is being used more like a stick than a carrot. We work with many small providers who are doing SHAKEN because it benefits their customers. They went for the carrot: happier customers and better customer retention. The benefits are high, while the cost is modest and easy to justify.

The non-IP SHAKEN extension is an unnecessary drag on SHAKEN adoption. We’re seeing that only 24% of calls received are signed. That’s way too low. It’s time for the non-IP SHAKEN extension to be phased out. SHAKEN for TDM standards have been approved and are commercially available. Let’s go!

TransNexus solutions

We offer STIR/SHAKEN and robocall mitigation solutions in our ClearIP and NexOSS software platforms. We can make your STIR/SHAKEN deployment a smooth process.

We provide an STI-CPS, the TransNexus CPS, which is available to any SHAKEN-authorized service provider, free of charge, to use when they want to send or receive STI PASSporTs out of band.

Contact us today to learn more.

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