Lawmakers in the House of Representatives have released the details of a new bill intended to combat robocalls. The bill, a product of bipartisan compromise, is being called the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act, and Democrats and Republicans hope the measure could limit the intrusive and often illegal automated calls. According to YouMail, a call-blocking software company, Americans received nearly 5 billion robocalls in May 2019, twice the amount received during the same month two years ago.
Stopping Bad Robocalls Act
The proposed legislation, introduced by leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, seeks to expand the list of illegal robocalling practices, both for fraudsters and legitimate businesses. The bill would also grant the government more power to penalize callers who violate the law.
“Americans deserve to be free of the daily danger and harassment of robocalls,” says New Jersey Rep. Frank Pallone, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. “It’s time we end the robocall epidemic and restore trust back into our phone system.” Pallone says he is optimistic that the bill will secure House and Senate approval. He also expects President Trump to sign it. “At one point,” he continued, “this was just a nuisance. Now there are so many indications that this is putting people in danger. You have these scammers now disguised as the I.R.S. You have those that are disguised as police officers. From personal experience, I think it undermines people’s faith in the phone system and they don’t answer.”
Redefining Robocall In Light Of New Tech
The Stopping Bad Robocalls Act would order the Federal Communications Commission to revise the definition of what counts as a robocall in light of newer technologies. The bill would also empower the FCC to outlaw any future attempts to circumvent the rules by using new robocall techniques. But legislators aren’t stopping there. The Stopping Bad Robocalls Act would also put more pressure on telecommunications companies, including the Big Four of AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile. Under the law, these companies would be required to implement robocall-blocking technologies within a year and a half.
Pushing Widespread Adoption Of STIR / SHAKEN
The major telecom giants have all promised to implement a new protocol, STIR / SHAKEN, that would authenticate robocalls and flag calls coming from dubious sources, but the government has not yet made these measures obligatory.
Adding to these efforts, the new bill would instruct the FCC to devise alternative options for rural carriers that don’t have the resources to adopt STIR / SHAKEN. It would also make it simpler for federal investigators to pursue violations of robocall laws, removing legal hurdles that limit the amount of time officials have and dictate the way fines must be issued.
The Stopping Bad Robocalls Act comes close on the heels of a similar bill passed last month by the Senate. Known as the TRACED ACT, the bill takes major strides toward combatting the epidemic of robocalls. The two laws, however, are not carbon-copies of one another. For example, the Senate bill does not require the FCC to redefine what constitutes a robocall.