The Federal Communications Commission today issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Caller ID “spoofing” to implement the Truth in Caller ID Act. Comments are due on April 18, 2011 and reply comments are due on May 3, 2011. The FCC has until May 22, 2011 to issue rules implementing this change in law.

The Act makes it illegal to cause any “caller identification service” to transmit knowingly inaccurate or misleading “caller identification information” with the intent to defraud or cause harm.

In other words, a provider may not spoof or otherwise suppress the originating telephone number of a call unless a legitimate business reason exists for modifying such information. The FCC seeks comment on what, if any, exemptions to the rules should exist to ensure that innovative, legitimate services may be provided.

To implement the Truth in Caller ID Act, the FCC proposes to define:

  • “Caller Identification Service” as “any service or device designed to provide the user … with the telephone number … regarding the origination of a call”; and
  • “Caller Identification Information” as “information … regarding the telephone number of … the origination of a call.”

The proposed definitions and rules would apply equally to telecommunications services and interconnected VoIP services. Interconnected VoIP service is a “two-way” communications path. The Notice is silent as to whether the new rules would apply to VoIP services that are not “two way” (e.g., one-way transport). The FCC’s authority to apply the rules to non-carrier, third-party software vendors is unclear.

The Notice proposes “forfeitures” for violating these rules. The Notice does not suggest that any private right of enforcement action would exist to combat prohibited spoofing. Accordingly, it seems unlikely that a consumer or carrier could successfully sue to enforce these proposed rules, or otherwise claim that a violation constitutes an “unjust and unreasonable practice” in violation of the Communications Act.