On Thursday, the Senate voted to approve a bill creating new carve-outs for the Federal Communications Commission to better combat the growing scourge of robocalls by an overwhelming 97-1 vote.
A bipartisan proposal, the TRACED Act, was introduced by Sens. John Thune (R-SD) and Ed Markey (D-MA). If passed, it would raise the fines the FCC is permitted to levy on robocallers, and increase the statute of limitations for bringing those cases. It would also create an interagency task force to address the problem, and push carriers like AT&T and Verizon to deploy call authentication systems like the pending STIR/SHAKEN protocols into their networks.
“It’s a daily deluge of calls that Americans experience,” Markey said. “It’s a consumer protection crisis. Consumers around the country face an epidemic of robocalls.”
Last year, around 48 billion robocalls were placed in the United States alone. This annoying and oftentimes predatory behavior has become one of the largest sources of complaints to agencies like the FCC and Federal Trade Commission.
“The American people are ready for this,” Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS), chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee said.
The bill will now move to the House of Representatives, where it awaits approval. It’s unclear when it will be taken up for a vote, as there are a number of other anti-robocall bills already waiting for consideration by lawmakers. Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, has introduced his own legislation that would extend new powers to consumers to stop debt collectors from calling them.
Earlier this month, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced a new agency initiative to combat these illegal and unwanted calls. The measure, that would assure carriers that they are able to block illegal calls, will be taken up for a vote next month.
“Today, no one is spared from this consumer protection pandemic,” Markey said ahead of the vote.