Via Electronic Filing
Ms. Marlene H. Dortch, Secretary
Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street, S.W.
Washington D.C., 20554
Dear Ms. Dortch:
On May 28, 2019, Rebekah Johnson, CEO of Numeracle, Inc., Steve Akers, VP of Engineering at Appriss Inc. and David Richerson, Director of IT at Appriss Inc. met with Zenji Nakazawa, advisor to Chairman Pai, and Jerusha Burnett of the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau. They also met separately with Travis Littman, advisor to Commissioner Rosenworcel. The purpose of these meetings was to discuss the Commission’s efforts to combat illegal and unwanted robocalls and authentication caller ID technologies and the possible blocking of certain critical (and potentially life-saving) voice notifications provided by Appriss.
Numeracle is the pioneer of call blocking and labeling visibility and control in the new calling ecosystem, providing actionable strategies for businesses whose legal calls have been improperly blocked or labeled as illegal robocalls. By working with major carriers, analytics companies, app developers, device manufacturers, and industry leaders, Numeracle delivers a path to call labeling control for call originators across the healthcare, retail, safety, government, utility, broadcast, financial, and resort industries.
Appriss delivers voice notifications to users who have registered for a service called VINE. VINE is a free, nationwide, state-sponsored solution that lets victims of crime and other concerned citizens access timely and reliable information regarding the status of offenders in the jail system. Appriss provides over 20 million registered users this vital information each year. It receives data from over 4000 agencies, jails, departments of corrections, etc. from around the country with updated custody status on offenders in the system. When an offender's status changes (paroled, released, transferred, etc.), then a voice call goes out to the registrant that must be acknowledged with a 4-digit PIN in most cases.
We raised concerns about the use of analytics by voice service providers to perform default blocking on an opt-out basis for consumers. In the attachment presented, evidence was provided around how calls that consumers want to receive are frequently erroneously labeled as “Scam” or “Spam.” Allowing voice service providers to block communications by default on an opt-out basis based on varied analytics would create inconsistencies, as identical lawful (requested) calls from the same caller are rated inconsistently even by the same analytics entity. The attached presentation shows that calls from seven phone numbers from the same caller were rated anywhere from low to high risk. One analytics entity rated calls from the same calling campaign by one company all the way from low risk to high risk.
Additionally, carriers and their analytics partners do not inform legal callers of how their calls are labeled and/or blocked. Because of these errors and lack of feedback from carriers and their partners to lawful callers, the voice channel will be rendered a less effective means of communication because consumers will not receive voice communications, not just from companies they do business with, but also from vital service providers like Appriss that have been entrusted to convey critical information.
The draft order plays fast and loose with the terms “illegal call” and “unwanted call.” The Commission has never fully defined these terms. The same sales call that is illegal if the customer has not consented to receive it is perfectly legal with customer consent. Every customer will have his/her own definition of an “unwanted call.”
Appriss, each day on average, makes 120,000 calls to deliver 10,000-12,000 unique notifications across 48 states with call patterns that align with those noted in paragraph 34 of the draft order. As provided in the attached, Appriss’s VINE offender notifications are currently being labeled as a Scam or Spam by analytics based on the proprietary algorithms. Numeracle supports providing customers with accurate labeling information so they can make informed decisions about whether to answer a call or have certain categories blocked based on their individual preferences.
The FCC is interrupting a 90-year requirement of call completion to allow unrestricted blocking based on the undefined term “unwanted call” that inevitably will vary for every consumer. To implement such an option will require voice service providers to provide refined categories and accurate labeling with the inclusion of consumer personal preference. For the last few years, the FCC has reinforced that carriers cannot engage in unreasonable call blocking of calls to rural carriers, yet now is authorizing wide scale, standardless blocking based on undefined criteria. It is unreasonable to allow carriers to block based on any analytics designed to identify unwanted calls without recourse for blocked legal and wanted calls.
The Commission should consider the inevitable false positives that have and will continue to result on a grander scale with the default opt-out approach. While Numeracle fully supports the deployment of STIR/SHAKEN by voice service providers, I noted this is not a solution to identify “legal vs. illegal” or “wanted vs unwanted” calls. STIR/SHAKEN was designed to provide consistent traceback to determine the originating carrier, but STIR/SHAKEN does not determine whether a call is legal or illegal or wanted or unwanted. The need for analytics will remain, but an even more pressing need is the ability for legal callers to identify to carriers and their analytics partners that they are making lawful and proper calls from telephone numbers they are authorized to use.
Founder & CEO
P.O. Box 2523
Arlington, VA 22202
Cc (via email)
To view the appendix of this Ex Parte communication, including additional call labeling data and improper call blocking analysis, please view the full source at: https://ecfsapi.fcc.gov/file/10530193220084/Littman%20and%20Nakazawa%20Ex%20Parte%20Numeracle%20and%20Appriss.pdf