The FCC announced that it has approved the declaratory ruling previously circulated by Chairman Pai that would allow voice service providers to start offering default call-blocking programs that are based on reasonable analytics.

The FCC also voted to adopt a notice of proposed rulemaking that, as described in the FCC’s press release, would “require service providers to implement the SHAKEN/STIR caller ID authentication framework, if major voice service providers fail to do so by the end of this year.”  (SHAKEN is an acronym for “Signature-based Handling of Asserted Information Using toKENS” and STIR is an acronym for the “Secure Telephone Identify Revisited” standards.)  The press release states that the NPRM will also seek comment on the FCC’s creation of “a safe harbor for providers that block calls that are maliciously spoofed so that caller ID cannot be authenticated and that block calls that are ‘unsigned’.”

The press release indicates that the declaratory ruling would allow providers to offer opt-in blocking tools based on consumers’ contact lists or other “white list” options.  The white list could be updated automatically as consumers add and remove contacts from their smartphones.

The FCC’s announcement that it was considering the declaratory ruling sparked considerable concern among providers of consumer financial products and services about the ruling’s potential impact on legitimate calls, including collection calls from creditors or debt collectors. As a result of the efforts of trade groups, the FCC is reported to have agreed to modify the declaratory ruling to address industry concerns.  Apparently in response to industry concerns regarding the need for customers to be properly notified they will be automatically opted-in to call blocking technology, the FCC’s press release states that providers can offer default blocking “as long as customers are informed and have the opportunity to opt out of the blocking.”

Industry trade groups also urged the FCC to include in the ruling a “safety valve” mechanism for legitimate callers to challenge the blocking of their calls or stop their numbers from being blocked.  While not reflected in the FCC’s press release, in his statement about the vote approving the declaratory ruling and NPRM, Chairman Pai stated that he recognizes “that some who make legitimate calls have expressed concern about our decision today” but “believe[s] that we’ve appropriately addressed their concerns by making clear that any reasonable call-blocking program offered by default must include a mechanism for allowing legitimate callers to register a complaint  and for having that complaint resolved.”

The declaratory ruling will go in effect upon its release on the FCC’s website.  The deadline for filing comments on the NPRM will be established upon its publication in the Federal Register.