Notes from Washington: Consumer Advisory Committee Meeting

Friday January 27, 2017.

In one of his first public appearances since being designated Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Ajit Pai listed as one of his main areas of interest the ongoing effort to eliminate the “scourge” of robocalls. Speaking at a meeting of the FCC’s Consumer Advisory Meeting, Chairman Pai referenced this mother’s frustration over robocalls and acknowledged jokingly, “Now [as Chairman] actually I can’t defer it by saying ‘Well, that’s somebody else’s problem.’ It’s now my problem.”

Signaling his wishes that the Commission take “aggressive action” with the help of the industry to greatly reduce if not eliminate the problem, Chairman Pai specifically covered several related thoughts or suggestions, including:

* Improved feedback from consumers to regulators and the industry regarding robocalls;
* Increased enforcement against unscrupulous telemarketers;
* The creation of a safe harbor for carriers electing to experiment with new technological solutions and to block spoofed calls;
* The development of a reassigned numbers database to help avoid inadvertent dialing of “wrong” numbers; and
* Overturning the FCC’s declaratory ruling exempting the federal government and its contractors from compliance with the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.

In reality, Chairman Pai has long been an advocate of aggressive FCC and industry action against fraudulent and unwanted calls and seems poised to continue his efforts, as he put it to the CAC, to “help channel Rachel from card holder services into more productive social activities.”

[The Consumer Advisory Committee is chartered “to make recommendations to the Commission regarding consumer issues within the jurisdiction of the Commission and to facilitate the participation of consumers…in proceedings before the Commission.” Other relevant items on the January 27th meeting agenda included presentations by Antonio Sweet, Technology Policy Advisor, Office of Strategic Planning, FCC (“Spoofing Technologies and Robocalling”) and Linda Vanderloop, Assistant VP External Affairs, ATT (“Introducing the Robocall Strike Force & Next Steps”).

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