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FCC slams telcos for failing to update robocall database

Jessica Rosenworcel FCC.jpg

The US regulator has imposed fines worth almost US$1 million on a dozen small phone companies that are not sending the right numbering information to a database.

The move is part of increasing efforts by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to stem the rise of unwanted calls – often called “robocalls” in the US.

“We are using every tool we can to combat illegal robocalls. For our efforts to be successful, carriers need to play their part and follow the rules,” said FCC chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel (pictured).

“When they fail to do so, we will not hesitate to act as these first-of-their-kind enforcement actions make abundantly clear.”

The move is a clear sign that regulators are taking a much stronger line against robocalls and spoofed calls. Last month Capacity reported that Ofcom, the UK regulator, is following the FCC’s example, which is also imposing fines on companies that route spoof calls through borders to US customers.

The FCC has been imposing fines of around $4,000 on each of a small number of spoof calls, according to one observer of the industry.

The maximum proposed fines in this latest case are of $93,000 each for each of two companies, one called Integrated Path Communications and another called Local Access.

Fort Mojave Telecommunications in Arizona will face a fine of $83,000, says the FCC, and Puerto Rico Telephone Company, which operates as Claro Puerto Rico will be fined $80,000.

The regulator said: “Millions of phone numbers are reassigned each month. When a consumer gets a new phone number that was previously assigned to another consumer, businesses and other callers need to have access to the most complete, accurate, and up-to-date information to avoid making unwanted calls.”

The regulator said that, under its rules, phone companies must submit permanent number disconnection information to the Reassigned Numbers Database administrator by the 15th of each month.

“Under FCC rules, every provider that obtains North American Numbering Plan US geographic numbers must submit disconnection information for the database.”

The FCC said that “neither the allegations nor the proposed sanctions … are final Commission actions”, and it said: “The parties will be given an opportunity to respond and the Commission will consider the parties’ submissions of evidence and legal arguments before acting further to resolve the matters.”

At Somos, the company that runs North American numbering, Ann Berkowitz, senior VP and chief administrative officer, told Capacity: “To date, the reassigned numbers database has potentially prevented over 16 million unwanted calls and texts. The federal mandate for all service providers to report permanent number disconnections monthly has been in place for over a year. With the data growing each month, to nearly 400 million telephone numbers, subscribers of the RND have made over 280 million queries since the November 1 2021 general availability.”