Oct 11 -- The Federal Communications Commission (Commission) proposes to require mobile wireless providers to block texts, at the network level, that purport to be from invalid, unallocated, or unused numbers, and numbers on a Do-Not-Originate (DNO) list. The document also seeks comment on the extent to which spoofing is a problem with regard to text messaging and whether there are measures the Commission can take to encourage providers to identify and block texts that appear to come from spoofed numbers. In addition, the document seeks comment on applying caller ID authentication standards to text messaging. Comments are due on or before November 10, 2022 and reply comments are due on or before November 25, 2022.
1. In this notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM), the Commission proposes to require mobile wireless providers to block text messages at the network level (i.e., without consumer opt in or opt out) that purport to be from invalid, unallocated, or unused numbers, and numbers on the Do-Not-Originate (DNO) list. These texts are highly likely to be illegal. The Commission seeks comment on this proposal, including whether these text messages represent a material fraction of unwanted text messages. The Commission seeks comment on whether providers are blocking these types of messages today and, if so, how that blocking may inform the proposal. The Commission seeks comment on additional types of text blocking providers are currently doing, (e.g., blocking based on reasonable analytics). The Commission seeks comment on whether requiring mobile providers to block text messages at the network level is necessary or whether the Commission should simply continue to allow for such network level blocking. The Commission also seeks comment on whether numbers placed on the DNO list are used for illegal texts.
2. Spoofing is where the caller disguises its number and instead shows the number of a neighbor or reputable source in the caller ID field in order to trick the recipient into thinking the call is trustworthy. The Commission seeks comment on the extent to which spoofing is a problem with regard to text messaging. The Commission also seek comment on whether there are additional measures the Commission can take to encourage mobile wireless providers to block texts that appear to come from spoofed numbers.
3. The Commission seeks comment on the need for mandatory blocking. The Commission seeks comment on whether increases in illegal texts may be a result of blocking unwanted calls and if the Commission should bring text blocking more in line with call blocking by requiring blocking from invalid, unallocated, or unused numbers, and numbers that otherwise appear to be spoofed, and therefore reduce the incentive for scammers to migrate to texting.
4. The Commission seeks comment on the voluntary text blocking that providers are currently doing to protect their subscribers. The Commission also seeks comment on the effectiveness of device-level or application-based text blocking to reduce illegal texts and the prevalence of application-based (i.e., over the top, or OTT) text messaging and whether there are more or fewer illegal text messages sent on OTT services as opposed to through mobile wireless providers. The Commission seeks comment on how OTT messages differ in transmission characteristics from SMS and MMS texts, including their relationship to wireless telephone numbers and how likely the proposed regulations will mitigate the problem of illegal texts.
5. The Commission seeks comment on whether the definition of text message in the current rules would apply to OTT messages sent to wireless telephone numbers, but not to OTT messages sent to other users within the same application. The current definition of text message, in the Truth in Caller ID rules, includes SMS messages but “does not include . . . a message sent over an IP-enabled messaging service to another user of the same messaging service.”
6. The Commission also proposes that all tools that service providers use to determine whether a text is highly likely to be illegal be applied in a non-discriminatory, competitively- and content-neutral manner. . . .
7. The Commission seeks comment on whether and how to protect consumers from erroneous blocking of emergency text messages. . . .
8. The Commission also seeks comment on whether illegal texting to 911 poses a problem for PSAPs and, as a result, a threat to public safety. . . .
9. The Commission has acknowledged that call blocking comes with a risk that consumers could miss wanted calls, and recognizes the same concerns exist with the text blocking. The Commission states that because the proposal is that text messages deemed highly likely to be illegal would be subject to blocking, the risk of erroneous blocking would be minimal. . . .
10. The Commission seeks comment on whether to require providers to implement caller ID authentication for text messages. . . .
11. The Commission seeks comment on whether the current STIR/SHAKEN governance system is able to accommodate authentication for text messages, or would it need to be modified or a new governance system established. . . .
12. The Commission tentatively concludes that providers should implement caller ID authentication for text messages and that such a requirement would spur standards groups to complete development of standards promptly. The Commission seeks comment on the timeline for implementation that accounts for the time needed both to finish standards and for providers to perform any necessary network upgrades. . . .
13. When it adopted the STIR/SHAKEN mandate, the Commission determined the expected benefits of implementing STIR/SHAKEN would far exceed estimated costs. How can the Commission quantify the benefit of protecting American consumers from spoofed texts through an implementation mandate for authentication for text messages? Are there any other benefits such a requirement would offer-for example, could authentication for text messages protect against malicious conduct toward text-to-911 services? What would be the costs of an implementation mandate? Will small mobile service providers face particular challenges in authenticating text messages? How might the Commission accommodate or mitigate such challenges?
14. The Commission seeks comment on the scope of any implementation mandate for authentication for text messages. . . .
15. What is the Commission's legal authority to create such a class and to regulate the members of any proposed class? . . .
16. Is there a reason to apply any requirements to intermediate text message providers or aggregators, as in the STIR/SHAKEN context for voice calls? . . .
17. Should the Commission subject voice service providers and intermediate providers (or the equivalent groups established for purposes of a rule) to substantially the same obligations as under the STIR/SHAKEN rules? Or should the Commission create new obligations specific to the text message context? If so, what obligations?
18. The Commission also seeks comment on other implementation issues. . . .
19. Should the Commission require providers with non-IP network technology to work to develop a non-IP solution to enable the authentication for text messages on non-IP networks, or is there a different approach to address non-IP network technology? . . .
20. The Commission seeks comment on other actions to address illegal text messages. . . .
21. Are there ways the Commission can enhance its spam text message consumer education outreach and content? . . .
22. Finally, the Commission, as part of its continuing effort to advance digital equity for all, including people of color, persons with disabilities, persons who live in rural or tribal areas, and others who are or have been historically underserved, marginalized, or adversely affected by persistent poverty or inequality, invites comment on any equity-related considerations and benefits (if any) that may be associated with the proposals and issues discussed herein. . . .
23. The Commission seeks comment on the authority to adopt the measures described in this NPRM. . . .
24. The Commission seeks comment on the authority under the Truth in Caller ID Act and whether the Truth in Caller ID Act provides authority for any implementation mandate adopted pertaining to spoofing. . . .
25. The Commission seeks comment on the scope of authority under Title III of the Act to undertake the measures described above. . . .
26. The Commission anticipates that the blocking of illegal texts would achieve an annual benefit floor of $6.3 billion. RoboKiller estimates that Americans are on track to receive more than 86 billion spam texts in 2021, a 55% increase from 2020. Assuming a nuisance harm of five cents per spam text, the Commission estimates total nuisance harm to be $4.3 billion (i.e., 5 cents × 86 billion spam texts). The Commission estimates that an additional $2 billion of harm occurs annually due to fraud. American citizens lose approximately $10.5 billion annually in fraudulent robocall offers. Assuming that the corresponding loss through fraudulent texts is only 20% of that amount, the fraud loss from texts is $2 billion annually. The Commission seeks comment on these benefit estimates, whether the underlying assumptions are reasonable, and if not, what might be a better estimate of consumer harm.
27. As the Commission concluded in the STIR/SHAKEN Order with respect to the long-term cost of blocking illegal robocalls, the Commission anticipates that the text blocking requirement would result in an overall reduction of costs to text service providers due to this expected reduction in network congestion costs. Although the Commission will not obtain any detailed cost data until comments are received, the Commission tentatively concludes the $6.3 billion annual benefit floor expected from such a blocking requirement would far exceed the costs imposed on text service providers. The Commission seeks comment on this tentative conclusion.