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Thoughts on the new FCC rules for blocking unlawful text messages

Fraud and security
Blocking unlawful text messages
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On March 16, 2023, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposed a new set of limited rules for blocking unlawful text messages - it was quite a change from the wide-ranging proposal the Notice for Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) issued in October 2022.

Messaging industry stakeholders came together to oppose many of the FCC’s proposals in the new rules. While they had listened to industry feedback, the FCC thought several points raised were excessive and likely to have little to no impact on existing mitigation measures.

As of today May 11 2023, the new rules have no compliance date - per Appendix A of the Report and Order, it will not happen until “after the Office of Management and Budget completes a review of such requirements pursuant to the Paperwork Reduction Act or until after the Consumer and Government Affairs Bureau determines that such a review is not necessary.”

There are just two new rules that will go into effect:

  1. A mobile wireless provider (MNO) must block text messages on a “reasonable” Do Not Originate (DNO) list of North American Numbering Plan (NANP) numbers - this means the DNO list should not contain non-NANP numbers – for example, numbers outside the +1 marketplace).
  2. An MNO must provide a single point of contact to resolve complaints about any misguided blocking from message senders - this should typically be on the MNO’s website.

The new Report and Order also notes that the DNO list may only contain

  • Invalid NANP numbers
  • Valid NANP numbers unallocated to any provider by the NANP administrator
  • NANP numbers allocated to a provider that is unused and verified as such
  • NANP numbers from which the subscriber has requested to be blocked

While it might sound complicated, we should note that commercial DNO lists for voice already exist. We expect these will include text-specific DNO extensions since a number could be on the DNO list for voice, but not for messaging (or vice-versa).

The new rules do not apply to short codes, but they affect regular 10-Digit Long Codes (or 10DLCs) and toll-free numbers – both commonly used for SMS and MMS messaging. Non-NANP numbers are not included  - for example, non+1 country code.

New FCC rules for blocking unlawful text messages

DNO - who is affected?

The FCC’s Rule and Order does not explicitly call out any specific messaging players - it states “mobile wireless provider.” That could apply to just about anyone in the messaging ecosystem.

Realistically, the rule applies to mobile carriers themselves, so in the business messaging world (A2P), that includes toll-free gateway providers, 10DLC Direct-Connection Aggregators (DCAs), Connectivity Partners (CNPs), and carriers - for P2P or personal messaging, include carriers and messaging interoperability hubs too.

In many cases, A2P or P2P; these entities have direct relationships with carriers and may need to provide DNO scrubbing if asked. Essentially, anyone already providing spam control to the messaging ecosystem should be adding DNO capabilities.

Overall, this is a very light touch from the FCC - adding a DNO list review of both P2P and A2P SMS and MMS messaging will improve the already very comprehensive messaging spam mitigation in place today.

The FCC has also published a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking covering

  • A proposal that terminating providers block texts from a sender after being notified by the FCC that the sender is sending illegal texts
  • A proposal to extend the national Do Not Call Registry’s protections to text messages
  • A proposal to ban single consumer consent as grounds for delivering calls and texts from multiple marketers beyond the scope of the original consent - this is an important proposal – one the industry already supports in the review of messaging campaigns for 10DLC, toll-free, and short codes

The FCC is seeking further comment on text authentication measures.

Comments are due in Spring 2023 on this further NPRM, and we could expect additional rules, potentially later this year.

The FCC is serious about combating messaging spam and is doing a good job, partnering with industry stakeholders to keep regulations to a minimum and avoid harming measures already in place. Certainly, we’ll see more to come. In the meantime, all industry players are highly motivated and determined to do everything possible to mitigate illegal and spam texts.