The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently issued a public notice seeking comments in response to a September letter from 39 state attorneys general writing “on behalf of the millions of Americans receiving unwanted and harassing telemarketing calls.” In the letter, the Attorneys General formally requested an opinion from the FCC on three issues regarding telephone carriers’ legal ability to implement call-blocking technology in an attempt to address unwanted telemarketing calls. First, what legal and/or regulatory prohibitions prevent telephone carriers from implementing call-blocking technology? Second, at a customer’s request, can telephone carriers legally block certain types of calls if technology is able to identify incoming calls as originating or probably originating from a telemarketer? And third, can the FCC’s position on the matter be accurately characterized as “strict oversight in using the unimpeded delivery of telecommunications traffic?” If so, upon what basis does the FCC claim that telephone carriers may not “block, choke, reduce, or restrict telecommunications traffic in any way?” In its public notice, the FCC is requesting comment on whether there are additional sources of FCC authority to prohibit call blocking, and on the scope of that authority. The FCC further seeks comment on whether and to what extent prior precedent and applicable statutory provisions regarding call blocking apply to call blocking technologies in development or on the market. The FCC would like more information on what call-blocking technologies are available or under development, how they work, and how those details should inform its analysis, and whether differences in specific technologies would produce different outcomes under the law.

TIP: Parties interested in this issue may file comments with the FCC by December 24, 2014 and file reply comments by January 8, 2015.