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US Senate passes bill that expands FCC authority to crack down on robocalls


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US Senate passes bill that expands FCC authority to crack down on robocalls

The U.S. Senate voted 97-1 on May 23 to pass a bipartisan bill that aims to crack down on illegal robocalls.

The bill, known as the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence Act, or TRACED Act, would give the U.S. Federal Communications Commission expanded authority to levy fines and require voice service providers to develop call authentication technologies, among other provisions.

Specifically, it would give the FCC the authority to levy civil penalties of up to $10,000 per call against anyone who intentionally violates telemarketing rules, according to Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., the sponsor of the bill.

The bill would also direct the FCC to require providers of voice services to adopt call authentication strategies within 18 months of the legislation's enactment.

Thune previously said the provision would enable phone carriers to verify that incoming calls are legitimate before they reach consumers' phones.

The Senate vote comes just over a week after FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced a proposed rule that would allow U.S. carriers to begin offering call-blocking services by default.

In a May 23 statement, Pai said the FCC "would welcome these additional tools to fight this scourge." The FCC has said unwanted calls are by far the biggest consumer complaint it receives, with more than 200,000 complaints each year — about 60% of the agency's annual total.

Shortly after the vote, Thune urged the House of Representatives to take up the bill "without delay."