Today’s Regulatory Mix: FCC Rules Regarding the TCPA and Government Callers or Government Contractors, FCC Commissioner Starks Delivers Remarks at The Tribal Government E-Commerce Conference
FCC Rules Regarding the TCPA and Government Callers or Government Contractors
According to a ruling released by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), state government callers, like federal government callers, are not ‘‘persons’’ under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). These government callers are not required to obtain the prior express consent of called parties. Reversing its decision released in December of 2020, however, the FCC concluded that state and federal contractors are considered “persons” for purposes of the TCPA. Similarly, local governmental entities, including counties, cities, and towns, and their contractors, are also considered “persons” subject to the TCPA.
FCC Commissioner Starks Delivers Remarks at The Tribal Government E-Commerce Conference
In remarks delivered to The Tribal Government E-Commerce Conference, February 18 , 2021, FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks highlighted a number of things that could help build on the bipartisan support for the Emergency Broadband Benefit and accelerate efforts to make broadband affordable. In his comments he expanded upon steps the Commission should take:
Beyond the Emergency Broadband Benefit, there are additional concrete steps the Commission should take. First, Lifeline needs an update. As I noted earlier, only about twenty percent of eligible households take advantage of the benefit. I have proposed that the Commission enter memoranda of understanding (MOUs) with other federal agencies that administer programs with similar eligibility criteria. Ideally, if someone is enrolled in a qualifying program like Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), they should learn about Lifeline. We also need to better understand what works and what doesn’t. The Commission has never completed its planned study of the program. We need to do this so Lifeline can be updated to reflect today’s needs.
Second, we need to make sure that the FCC’s investments in infrastructure lead to service that American families can actually afford. Our controlling statute is explicit: “Quality services should be available at just, reasonable, and affordable rates.” If we use our finite funds to build out broadband infrastructure without any regard given to whether people can afford the service once it arrives, we have not done the job Congress assigned us. That is why I was first on the Commission to call for consideration of requiring USF recipients to provide an affordable option as a condition of receiving high-cost support. I am eager to work with stakeholders around the country to incorporate the lessons of this year’s affordability challenges into a long-term commitment to affordability into our Universal Service Fund high-cost program.
Third, we need to update our E-Rate program with badly needed flexibility. For too long, our ability to respond to the educational challenges posed by COVID-19 has been hamstrung by the previous administration’s crabbed interpretation of the E-Rate statute. I am glad the Commission began the process of correcting that error. Giving schools flexibility to spend the funds to support students who are required to learn at home is an essential step for the current school year, during which many students will continue distance learning. Making this change will also make the program ready for future extenuating circumstances—different health crises, natural disasters, and more. It’s taken far too long to make E-Rate meet this moment, and we need to be better prepared in the future.
The Regulatory Mix, Inteserra’s blog of telecom related regulatory activities, is a snapshot of PUC, FCC, legislative, and occasionally court issues that our regulatory monitoring team uncovers each day. Depending on their significance, some items may be the subject of an Inteserra Briefing.