FCC Takes More Action on Robocalls, More Criticism from Democrat Senators on Tribal Broadband

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With its recent order – actually, a Third Report and Order, Order on Reconsideration, and Fourth Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking — the FCC continued its ongoing attack on robocalls.
The Third Report and Order establishes, ”rules that further encourage call blocking by establishing a safe harbor from liability under the Communications Act and the Commission’s rules for the unintended or inadvertent blocking of wanted calls, so long as such action is based upon reasonable analytics indicating that such calls were unwanted and therefore should be blocked.”
The accompanying Fourth Further Notice proposes “additional steps to…protect consumers from robocalls and inform them about provider blocking efforts.” Included are, “whether to obligate originating and intermediate providers to better police their networks against illegal calls, whether to expand our safe harbor for blocking based on reasonable analytics…and whether to require terminating providers to provide information about blocked calls to consumers.”
Meanwhile, on the other side of the coin, fifteen Democrat Senators wrote a letter to Chairman Pai on behalf of American Indians, Native Alaskans and Native Hawaiian communities, expressing concern “that under your leadership the Commission has not done enough to bridge the digital divide on Native lands, particularly during the ongoing COVID-19 national health emergency.”
The Senators cited several areas where the Commission could act to close that divide. Their recommendations included a Declaration of Lack of Timely Deployment under the Telecommunications Act of 1996; raising Lifeline subsidies for consumers on Tribal lands from $34.25 to $75 per month; increasing the Tribal set aside for Universal Service Funds; and extending the 2.5GHz Tribal Priority Window another 180 days.
Other ideas offered in the letter were to change the Rural Health Care Program to increase overall funding, to increase both broadband capacity and subsidies for telehealth providers, and to immediately expedite the processing of Program applications; and lastly, to ensure that all Tribal colleges and universities have adequate broadband access.
We believe that while more can and should be done for Native Americans, this FCC has done well with the extremely difficult task of bringing broadband to remote Tribal communities and other underserved areas of rural America.