After months of negotiations, Congress approved a landmark bill on Thursday to stop the flood of illegal robocalls. The president is expected to sign it into law within the next few days.
The Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence Act, or the TRACED Act, empowers the federal government with new abilities to go after illegal robocallers. Once TRACED is enacted, the Federal Communications Commission could fine robocallers up to $10,000 per call. It also would require major carriers like AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile to deploy a new technology called STIR/SHAKEN into their networks, which will make it easier for consumers to know if they’re receiving a call from a spoofed number.
The House voted overwhelmingly to approve the measure earlier this month, and Thursday’s unanimous Senate vote means the bill only requires President Trump’s signature to become law. Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA) said that the bill should be signed into law within the “next week or so.”
“I have yet to meet someone who says they enjoy receiving those unwanted and illegal robocalls that plague our phones,” Sen. John Thune (R-SD) said in a statement. “This bill represents a unique legislative effort that is not only bipartisan at its core, but it’s nearly unanimously supported in Congress.”
This year, carriers began to roll out the STIR/SHAKEN protocols into their networks in anticipation of this law. By deploying the protocols, carriers are able to cross-verify numbers on their networks to ensure that a call is coming from an authentic number, not a spoofed one.
Today, the Senate is sending Americans a holiday gift on everyone’s list: stopping the plague of robocalls. The bipartisan @SenJohnThune-Markey TRACED Act will finally crack down on scammers and fraudsters.— Ed Markey (@SenMarkey) December 19, 2019
Watch LIVE as we pass this critical legislation: https://t.co/7BGA7TFHRY pic.twitter.com/gT1iUWWBm8
The FCC has taken a number of steps to fight robocalls under Chairman Ajit Pai. Over the summer, Pai announced that the Commission would be moving to make overseas robocalls and malicious text message spoofing illegal after Congress passed new rules that required them to do so in 2018.
Members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee applauded their colleagues in the Senate for voting to approve the measure. “We’re delighted the Senate acted quickly to pass this legislation to shutdown illegal robocalls,” committee leaders said. “We’re working hard to help the American people get real relief from these relentless and illegal calls.”