Keep up with the latest developments and legal issues in the telecommunications and emerging technology sectors, with exclusive access to a comprehensive collection of telecommunications law news,...
By Lydia Beyoud
Aug. 4 — The Federal Communications Commission in a declaratory ruling issued Aug. 4 granted Edison Electric Institute, the American Gas Association and Blackboard, Inc. narrow exemptions to penalties under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991. The exemptions will allow schools and utilities to make robocalls or robotexts related to public safety or emergencies,
Customers who provide their phone numbers to utilities grant permission to the utility to contact them for service disruption and repair notifications, or nearby electrical power work, the agency said. Similarly, schools, many of which Blackboard serves as a communications web portal between administrators and students' families, can contact students' guardians when they fail to show up for school or for other emergencies, the FCC said.
The commission approved the item 5-0 with Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel dissenting in part. Rosenworcel said in a statement that the FCC has the authority to grant narrow TCPA exemptions to promote safety and prevent emergencies, but added that the agency should exercise that discretion “sparingly.”
Declaratory rulings are frequently used as safe harbors by other companies not party to the rulings, though they aren't legally binding. That could provide cover for other utilities or parties to make robocalls or robotexts related to emergencies or public safety. That could in turn lead to an increase in unwanted robocalls and robotexts, which are the foremost consumer complaint to the FCC.
“The Commission goes a step too far when it deduces from its conclusion that schools may make certain calls in emergency situations—that any third party can also make a robocall or send a text message to any person under the auspices of an emergency,” Rosenworcel said.
“The Commission takes the unorthodox approach of creating a third party carve-out and burying it in a footnote without proper notice or a full examination of its likely result,” she added.
Republican Commissioner Michael O'Rielly said in a statement the ruling demonstrates that the FCC's interpretation of the TCPA framework is “overly restrictive, unrealistic, and unworkable.”
Without exemptions such as those granted to schools and utilities, consumers risk losing valuable time to react to emergency situations, he said. The TCPA rules don't allow for reliable relief to parties with limited resources, he said.
“If parties have to spend resources to come before the Commission to ensure that they won’t face needless liability for such vital messages, then the Commission’s framework has missed the mark by a very wide margin indeed,” O'Rielly said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Lydia Beyoud in Washington at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Keith Perine at firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2016 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
All Bloomberg BNA treatises are available on standing order, which ensures you will always receive the most current edition of the book or supplement of the title you have ordered from Bloomberg BNA’s book division. As soon as a new supplement or edition is published (usually annually) for a title you’ve previously purchased and requested to be placed on standing order, we’ll ship it to you to review for 30 days without any obligation. During this period, you can either (a) honor the invoice and receive a 5% discount (in addition to any other discounts you may qualify for) off the then-current price of the update, plus shipping and handling or (b) return the book(s), in which case, your invoice will be cancelled upon receipt of the book(s). Call us for a prepaid UPS label for your return. It’s as simple and easy as that. Most importantly, standing orders mean you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you’re relying on. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.960.1220 or by sending an email to email@example.com.
Put me on standing order at a 5% discount off list price of all future updates, in addition to any other discounts I may quality for. (Returnable within 30 days.)
Notify me when updates are available (No standing order will be created).
This Bloomberg BNA report is available on standing order, which ensures you will all receive the latest edition. This report is updated annually and we will send you the latest edition once it has been published. By signing up for standing order you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you need. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.372.1033, option 5, or by sending us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Put me on standing order
Notify me when new releases are available (no standing order will be created)