In a letter to the Federal Communications Commission, eight lawmakers pushed the agency to speed the development of technology that would allow phone users to block telemarketing text messages and robocalls.
The FCC should work with wireless carriers and industry associations to develop "Do Not Disturb" tech that would block unwanted telemarketing on both landlines and cellphones, according to a letter co-signed by Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.).
"This technology should be developed and deployed as quickly as possible, and it should be offered to all consumers at no additional cost," the letter stated. "The right to privacy should not be considered a luxury feature. It is also critical that 'Do Not Disturb' technology does not inadvertently block public safety notifications or calls and texts that consumers wish to receive."
In addition, the agency needs to raise consumer awareness of their rights with regard to robocalls, the legislators said, perhaps by an ad campaign presented in "a simple, transparent and easily accessible manner." "The FCC and carriers should disseminate resources widely that explain how consumers can prevent unwanted robocalls and robotexts on both wireless and landline phones," the lawmakers wrote.
The impetus for the letter: the FCC's Declaratory Ruling and Order, which addressed multiple important issues for advertisers. It provided a broader definition of "autodialer" and imposed liability for calls made to recipients of telephone numbers that have been reassigned. Now that the agency has adopted the Declaratory Ruling and Order, "more work remains to ensure that the Commission's new rules are as effective as possible," the Senators said.
To spur the FCC into action, the letter posed specific questions about the Do Not Disturb technology: "How does the FCC plan to work with phone companies to develop and institute the adoption of 'Do Not Disturb' technologies? How will the FCC work with phone companies to inform and educate consumers about the new tools (both 'Do Not Disturb' technology and simplified ways to stop telemarketing calls) that the FCC recently approved?"
The legislators requested a response from the agency by August 25.
To read the letter from lawmakers to the FCC, click here.
Why it Matters: The gift that keeps on giving, the FCC's Declaratory Ruling and Order continues to impact advertisers and marketers. The agency's tighter rules need accompanying technology, the Senators wrote, and consumers should be made aware of their rights. Responding to the letter, a spokesperson for the FCC said the agency "appreciates the Senators' continued attention to this issue." When the Commission issued the Declaratory Ruling and Order, Chairman Tom Wheeler "was very clear that he wants carriers to make 'Do Not Disturb' technology available as soon as possible," the spokesperson added. "We will continue to work with all interested parties to help make this a reality for consumers."