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FCC Action Prevents Unwanted and Harassing Calls to Nation’s 9-1-1 Centers

Wednesday, October 17, 2012   (1 Comments)
Posted by: Chris Nussman
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On October 17, the FCC unanimously approved an order creating a do-not-call list for America’s 9-1-1 centers. The action prevents robocalls and unsolicited telemarketing from reaching 9-1-1 centers on administrative lines – a needless distraction that could prevent emergency calls from being answered in a timely manner.

Brian Fontes, CEO of NENA: The 9-1-1 Association, expressed gratitude and support for the order on behalf of 9-1-1 professionals across the nation: "In an emergency, seconds often mean the difference between life and death. Today’s action ensures that 9-1-1 call takers are not forced to take unnecessary time away from providing the lifesaving service of 9-1-1 to answer frivolous and unwanted calls. The FCC’s order to end robocalls to 9-1-1 undoubtedly benefits both citizens in need of assistance and the 9-1-1 call takers who enable effective and efficient emergency response.”

The action is the result of an FCC proceeding initiated as a requirement of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012. In addition, the TaxRelief Act established a range of monetary penalties for entities that disclose the registered numbers or use automatic dialing equipment to contact a number on the 9-1-1 center do-not-call registry.


Below is the summary of the FCC open meeting presentation on PSAP Do-Not-Call Registry Report and Order.  Click here to view the FCC press release.

Pursuant to the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, the Commission unanimously adopted a Report and Order ("R&O”) today that creates a do-not-call registry of Public Safety Answering Point ("PSAP”) telephone numbers, prohibits autodialed non-emergency calls to those numbers, and implements specific monetary penalties for autodialing or disclosing registered PSAP numbers. 

The PSAP Do Not Call List
In presenting the item, the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau ("CGB”) noted that the PSAP Do Not Call registry would be modeled after the very successful general Do Not Call registry. PSAPs will have broad discretion in choosing what numbers they wish to submit for protection, provided the numbers are associated with emergency services or are used to communicate with other emergency responders.

Restrictions on Robocaller Users
According to CGB, the R&O prohibits robocalls to any numbers registered on the PSAP Do Not Call registry. To ensure that robocallers use an updated list, they are required to access the PSAP Do Not Call list no more than 31 days before placing a call. Additionally, robocall users are prohibited from releasing, disclosing, or using the PSAP Do Not Call registry for any purpose other than complying with the rules. 

Exception for Emergency Calls
CGB noted that the record reflects that certain autodialer calls, such as emergency calls, should not be banned. According to CGB, the R&O exempts such calls from the ban. In her statement, Commissioner Rosenworcel specifically noted that true emergency calls from home security and automated security systems are important and should be permitted, but also noted that when these systems make unnecessary calls they can be distracting to public safety efforts. (The other Commissioners did not address this exception in their statements.)

Penalties
CGB stated that the R&O implements the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act's penalties between $10,000 and $100,000 per call for making robocalls to registered numbers, and penalties between $100,000 and $1 million per incident for robocall users disclosing or releasing numbers on the PSAP Do Not Call registry.  

Next Steps
According to CGB, it will issue a Public Notice providing additional operational details, such as how PSAPs can register numbers and how users of robocallers can access the registry. The forthcoming Notice will also set the effective date for compliance with the rules. Additionally, CGB noted that it will be reaching out to PSAPs and to robocall users to educate them on the existence and use of the PSAP Do Not Call registry. 

Comments...

Jeffrey P. Vannais ENP says...
Posted Thursday, November 22, 2012
"CGB noted that the record reflects that certain autodialer calls, such as emergency calls, should not be banned. According to CGB, the R&O exempts such calls from the ban. In her statement, Commissioner Rosenworcel specifically noted that true emergency calls from home security and automated security systems are important and should be permitted, but also noted that when these systems make unnecessary calls they can be distracting to public safety efforts. (The other Commissioners did not address this exception in their statements.)" The language is a little grey on the issue, but I think that there is a potential conflict, albeit a minor one, where legislation exists prohibiting automated dialing systems from calling 9-1-1. An exception to the exception, if you will.

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