Telecommunication

Communication at a distance, especially the electronic transmission of signals via the telephone

FCC Proposes Rules To Aid Investigation Of Threatening Calls

The Federal Communications Commission proposed rules to help unmask anonymous callers who threaten and harass schools, religious institutions, and other victims.

This effort follows the FCC’s temporary waiver earlier this year of caller ID privacy rules in order to help law enforcement address threatening phone calls received by Jewish Community Centers. The FCC is seeking to help law enforcement and community institutions get from telephone providers quick access to the information they need to identify and thwart threatening callers. The FCC seeks to streamline this process so that, going forward, institutions facing harassing or threatening calls can work with law enforcement to access caller ID info of the anonymous callers more quickly than the current, case-by-case waiver process. The proposal would amend the FCC’s rules to ensure that law enforcement and threatened parties can quickly identify threatening callers without the regulatory delay of applying for and being granted a waiver of the rules. The proposal lays out a path that protects consumer privacy by ensuring that caller information only be disclosed for truly threatening calls and that only law enforcement personnel and others responsible for the safety and security of the threatened party have access to otherwise-protected caller ID information.

FCC Proposes $120 Million Fine of Massive Caller ID Spoofing Operation

The Federal Communications Commission proposed a $120 million fine against an individual who apparently made almost 100 million spoofed robocalls in violation of the Truth in Caller ID Act. The law prohibits callers from deliberately falsifying caller ID information to disguise their identity with the intent to harm or defraud consumers.

Adrian Abramovich of Miami, Florida, apparently made 96 million spoofed robocalls during a three-month period. Abramovich’s operation apparently made the spoofed calls in order to trick unsuspecting consumers into answering and listening to his advertising messages. The proposed fine is based on 80,000 spoofed calls that the FCC has verified. Consumers reported receiving calls that appeared to come from local numbers but, if they answered, they heard an automated message prompting them to “Press 1” to hear about “exclusive” vacation deals from well-known travel and hospitality companies such as Marriott, Expedia, Hilton and TripAdvisor. Consumers who did press the button were then transferred to foreign call centers where live operators attempted to sell vacation packages often involving timeshares. The call centers were not affiliated with the well-known travel and hospitality companies mentioned in the recorded message.

FCC Seeks Comment on Eliminating Burdensome Payphone-Era Rules

In its continuing effort to eliminate costly and unnecessary regulations, the Federal Communications Commission proposed easing certain audit and reporting rules to better reflect the changing role of payphones in a mobile era.

The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) adopted by the FCC proposes to eliminate an annual audit and associated reporting requirement that in some cases reportedly costs more to undertake than the payphone compensation revenue it protects. An accompanying Order waives the audit and reporting requirements for 2017 and 2018 while the FCC weighs their permanent elimination in the future. Obligations to appropriately compensate payphone providers are not affected by today’s actions. The FCC proposes eliminating the audit and reporting requirements. As an alternative, it asks about replacing them with a less burdensome requirement such as self-certification, and seeks comment on these issues and additional reforms.

Former-Commissioner Michael Copps: ‘Maybe the Worst FCC I’ve Ever Seen’

A Q&A with former Federal Communications Commission member Michael Copps.

CBS CEO Les Moonves said it best: “I don’t know if Donald Trump is good for the country. but he’s damn good for CBS.” The election was just a glorified reality show and I do not think it was an aberration. Until we get that big picture straightened out and we get a civic dialogue that’s worthy of the American people and that actually advances citizens’ ability to practice the art of self-government — that informs citizens so they can cast intelligent votes and we stop making such damn-fool decisions — we’re in serious trouble. To me, that remains the problem of problems, it remains at the top of the list. Journalism continues to go south, thanks to big media and its strangulation of news, and there’s not much left in the way of community or local media. Add to that an internet that has not even started thinking seriously about how it supports journalism. You have these big companies like Google and Facebook who run the news and sell all the ads next to it, but what do they put back into journalism? It isn’t much. I don’t think right now that commercial media is going to fix itself or even that we can save it with any policy that’s likely in the near-term, so we have to start looking at other alternatives. We have to talk about public media — public media probably has to get its act together somewhat, too.

Britain’s broadband capital considers cutting off phone lines

The small city of Hull in northern England is planning to be one of the first places in Europe to consign its telephone lines to history. By the end of 2017, between 150,000 and 180,000 of Hull’s 210,000 buildings will be using the city’s super-fast fibre broadband network. That means it is time, according to Bill Halbert, the head of the local telecoms company KCOM, to start thinking about decommissioning the old copper telephone network. “Copper cannot handle the future,” said Halbert, who pointed out that most British households are now running seven to nine devices off their internet network and that fibre-optic cables are the only option. “It has to be fibre all the way. That’s one of the big national challenges for our economy.” If the city gets rid of its phone lines, it would follow in the footsteps of Svalbard, the Norwegian archipelago, and the Channel island of Jersey. Palaiseau, outside Paris, is also planning to ditch the old wires in 2018.

Consumer Groups Take Aim at Navient for Phone Harassment

A half-dozen consumer groups have asked the federal government to take action against Navient, a student loan servicer, and have accused the company of “harassing and abusing” borrowers with repeated automated telephone calls, even after being asked to stop. In a request filed on June 12 with the Federal Communications Commission, the National Consumer Law Center and other groups accused Navient of calling borrowers’ cellphones multiple times a day, and often many times a week, totaling hundreds or in some cases thousands of calls over a period of months or years.

The groups asked the FCC to take enforcement action against Navient for violating the Telephone Consumer Protection Act by making repeated “robocalls” to student loan borrowers and other consumers. The letter asks the agency to force Navient “to stop making robocalls to consumers from whom it does not have consent to call, or consumers whose consent has been revoked.”

CenturyLink Is Accused of Running a Wells Fargo-Like Scheme

A former CenturyLink employee claims she was fired for blowing the whistle on the telecommunications company's high-pressure sales culture that left customers paying millions of dollars for accounts they didn't request, according to a lawsuit filed in Arizona state superior court. The company's shares fell the most in six weeks on the news, while the shares of merger partner Level 3 Communications Inc. also dropped sharply.

The plaintiff, Heidi Heiser, worked from her home for CenturyLink as a customer service and sales agent from August 2015 to October 2016. The suit claims she was fired days after notifying Chief Executive Officer Glen Post of the alleged scheme during a companywide question-and-answer session held on an internal message board. The complaint alleges CenturyLink "allowed persons who had a personal incentive to add services or lines to customer accounts to falsely indicate on the CenturyLink system the approval by a customer of new lines or services." This would sometimes result in charges that hadn't been authorized by customers, according to the complaint.

A New Court Ruling Harms Prisoners Nationwide -- Including My Cousin

[Commentary] My cousin Charlie is serving time in an upstate New York prison. On June 13, a federal appeals court struck down several provisions in the Federal Communications Commission’s recent decisions to cap the cost of prison- and jail-phone calls. This ruling is a real blow to my family and many others like mine across the country. It’s also a huge step backward.

In late 2015, the FCC voted to reduce the steep cost of prison-phone calls charged to incarcerated people and their families. Many inmates and their families had spent years fighting to cap these calls, which can run to more than a dollar per minute. When the FCC voted to implement the caps I felt a sense of relief knowing that Charlie would be able to afford to call my grandmother on a more regular basis without worrying that he’d deplete his commissary on just phone calls. But soon after these rules were adopted the prison-phone industry sued the agency. In February 2017, Donald Trump’s newly appointed FCC chairman, Ajit Pai, said the agency’s lawyers wouldn’t defend key aspects of these rules in court — paving the way for Tuesday’s decision.

Democratic Sens Press FCC Not To Allow Straight-to-Voicemail Telemarketing

Democratic Sens are calling on Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai not to allow telemarketers to leave “ringless voicemails” on potential customers' phones. Sens Ed Markey (D-MA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), and others penned a letter to Chairman Pai, asking that he not allow companies to leave messages soliciting business on consumer’s phones that go straight to their voicemail. The FCC is currently considering a petition from firms that would like the commission to revise its position on such calls, which are currently barred under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) of 1991.

“Exempting ringless voicemails from the TCPA’s autodialer protections would allow callers to overwhelm consumers with ringless voice messages without first receiving express consumer consent,” wrote the senators. “Whether by robocall, by robotext, or by ringless voicemail, consumers should have meaningful control over who can and cannot contact their mobile device.”

Commissioner Mignon Clyburn's Statement on Inmate Calling Decision in DC Circuit

Today’s DC Circuit decision is deeply disappointing, not just for me and the many advocates who have fought for more than a decade to bring about much needed reform in the inmate calling services regime...it is a sad day for the more than 2.7 million children in this country with at least one incarcerated parent. But the families who have experienced the pain, anguish and financial burden of trying to communicate with a loved one in jail or prison, are still counting on us, so we will press on.

I remain committed to doing everything I can from working with my colleagues at the Commission, to supporting the efforts of Congress and those in the states to bring relief to millions who continue to suffer from the greatest form of regulatory injustice I have seen in my 18 years as a regulator in the communications space.