Countdown Timer showing days, hours, minutes, and seconds remaining
Get Your Lowest Price on Number Rep Management!
Take advantage of our end of year promos today!

Comment Filing by Numeracle, Inc. in the matter of Advanced Methods to Target and Eliminate Unlawful Robocalls (CG Docket No. 17-59) Call Authentication Trust Anchor (WC Docket No. 17-97) for CG Docket No. 17-59; WC Docket No. 17-97 on Aug 09, 2023

Before the Federal Communications Commission
Washington, D.C. 20554

Advanced Methods to Target and Eliminate Unlawful Robocalls (CG Docket No. 17-59) Call Authentication Trust Anchor (WC Docket No. 17-97)
CG Docket No. 17-59; WC Docket No. 17-97
Date posted:
August 9, 2023

The following quotation accurately and succinctly summarizes the disastrous effect that inaccurate call labeling has on businesses that are simply attempting to place legal telephone calls to their customers:

"When consumers cannot trust your company’s calls or get in contact with you, it starts affecting their perception of your brand. Imagine you are waiting for a call from your food delivery service on the status of your order. Time goes by and you haven’t received an update. You’d be pretty frustrated and your confidence in the company would plummet. While the delivery driver could have been calling you all along, you didn’t answer the calls because you didn’t know who was calling or because the call had a spam label. As more and more customers stop answering their phones for unknown calls, this damaged reputation can snowball into massive losses as customers choose other delivery services."1

This quotation is not from Numeracle or one of our customers frustrated with inaccurate spam labeling. It is from the website of Hiya, one of the three major analytics engines (“AE”) that does spam labeling for voice service providers. Hiya sells a branded calling solution to the inaccurate call labeling problem that Hiya and the other AEs have created. The conflict of interest inherent in having the same companies labeling telephone calls as spam and selling a solution to fix those labels could not be clearer.

Numeracle, Inc., submits these comments in response to the Commission’s Seventh Report and Order, Eighth Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, and Third Notice of Inquiry in the above-captioned dockets.2


The future of voice communications in the United States is in peril. Many have noted that the scourge of illegal robocalls has left the utility of voice calling in crisis and on the brink of extinction. Few have noted that the inaccurate labeling of legal and wanted telephone calls is on the verge of delivering the knockout blow by destroying the willingness of businesses, government, and other organizations to use phone calls to reach their customers and constituents. Legal callers are faced with unjustified and sometimes unfixable spam labeling, and they are forced to adopt paid solutions to a problem that they did not create and over which they have little control. The Commission needs to take action to preserve the usefulness of telephone calls as a means for organizations to contact their customers.

The current approach by the AEs that carriers have inserted into the call flow to block and label purportedly illegal and “unwanted” calls has failed. Not only do the AEs fail to block and label huge numbers of illegal calls, they also apply inaccurate labels to legal and wanted calls, causing vast disruption to calls such as prescription pickup reminders, appointment confirmations, customer service call-backs, crime victim notifications, two-factor authentications, and financial transaction calls.

Worse yet, the AEs are monetizing their failures and insisting that legal callers pay to reduce their risk of inaccurate labeling. This occurs in two ways: charges for telephone number reputation monitoring by some AEs and “branded calling” charges by all the major AEs to increase contact rates and reduce what they themselves concede is inaccurate labeling.

For example, Numeracle previously contracted with a major AE to purchase reputation score monitoring for our customers. After assurances from the AE that not purchasing monitoring would not affect registration and remediation or have a substantive effect on whether a number was labeled as spam, Numeracle chose to do its own monitoring with test calls to actual devices rather than purchase score reports from the AE. The decision not to purchase monitoring services resulted in dramatic increases in “Potential Spam” tagging by the AE and a substantial reduction in success for remediating numbers that were inaccurately labeled as spam. Numeracle chose to resume purchasing monitoring services as doing so benefited our customers with reduced spam labeling. The decision whether or not to purchase monitoring should not affect whether an AE labels a number as “Spam Likely” or “Potential Spam” as the caller’s identity and calling patterns have not changed, but in our experience it does have such an effect.

One AE imposes outrageous charges on callers that go to it directly for monitoring and remediation and do not use a company such as Numeracle as an intermediary. In at least one case, this AE charged more than $40,000 per year to register, monitor, and remediate spam labels for a caller with 100 phone numbers. In exchange for paying that AE $40,000, the AE removes most spam labels (the labeling designation for an unwanted call) but not scam labels (the labeling designation for a fraudulent call). And this is to remove the spam labels that the AE itself imposes. “Pay me $40,000 and I’ll remove the spam labels I’ve created” is the essence of this contract reduced to its core.  

The other way the AEs have cashed in on their inaccurate labeling is by selling branded calling. Hiya readily concedes the negative impact of inaccurate labeling on answer rates while touting its paid branded calling as a solution:

Without a branded caller ID, customers have no way of distinguishing your legitimate calls from a scam caller. When customers receive repeated unknown calls from your efforts to contact them, it’s likely that customers will block or report your number. When this happens often, your calls are more likely to be marked as spam. When this happens, answer rates plummet.3

In just one short paragraph, Hiya concedes: 1) answer rates “plummet” with spam labeling; 2) Hiya’s algorithm cannot distinguish between reports of real spam calls compared to legitimate but “unknown calls”; 3) Hiya will sell you a branded caller ID solution to the inaccurate labeling problem. Hiya markets its Hiya Connect product to “[m]onitor and manage reputation health to stop inaccurate spam labeling”4 that Hiya itself is imposing.

TNS similarly states that “Branded Calling controls spam labeling and helps increase answer rates for legitimate callers … .”5 Just as foxes should not be guarding hen houses, AEs that admit that their algorithms label legitimate calls as spam should not be the ones selling branded calling as a solution to a problem of their own making.

Copyright 1983 FarWorks, Inc. All rights reserved.

The unregulated AEs are throwing bricks through the windows of legitimate callers by imposing inaccurate labeling then offering to fix it for a fee. The FCC should not allow the AEs to insert themselves into the call flow, regardless of whether the call originator or recipient wants them there,6 and give the AEs carte blanche to make errors and then charge to fix those errors.

Numeracle concedes that the AEs have a difficult—perhaps impossible—task. They began operating in good faith seven or more years ago as the only then-available tool against illegal robocalls. Despite their best efforts and due to a paucity of verifiable identity information in signaling, they have limited resources to make accurate determinations, which harms legal callers just trying to get their calls through without interference. Their incentive structure defaults to overblocking and overlabeling as there are currently no downsides to being overzealous in that regard because they are accountable only to their carrier partners. But they have not kept up with evolving technology, standards, and calling patterns. The AEs have thrown up their hands and conceded that inaccurate labeling is inevitable and have monetized the problem. Instead, they should work with industry stakeholders to get the data they need to make their labels accurate. Numeracle has offered to provide the AE’s additional data at no charge that it collects as part of its robust Know Your Customer (“KYC”) identity verification process, but no AE has accepted this offer. AEs only accept minimal information about callers as part of the phone number registration process, giving no opportunity for callers to benefit from going through further identification processes, unless they choose to purchase branded calling services.  Vetted identity and associated trust attribute information can be obtained, securely stored, referenced in call signaling, and verified using emerging identity and call authentication standards. Numeracle stands willing and able to share its knowledge gleaned over the last six years to assist AEs and carriers in developing useful systems of caller identity validation that promote consumer trust.

The Commission has informed consumers that “Caller ID authentication technology enables subscribers to trust that callers are who they say they are.”7 That is not entirely correct. Even with STIR/SHAKEN, the only thing a call signed with an “A” attestation proves is that one of several thousand voice service providers in the United States has said that the caller has the right to use a particular phone number. It does not provide the identity of the caller—merely a number—and it relies on the good faith of the originating service provider that it has performed KYC on the customer and taken its word that its authorized to use the signaled phone number. Thus far, the AEs have not shown interest in expanding the trust from caller to recipient.  

The Commission should pause and consider what it has done over the last several years: For almost 100 years, federal regulators mandated that all calls complete8 and be delivered to their destination unimpeded. In the context of intercarrier compensation disputes, the Commission reiterated its strong position that carriers may not “restrict traffic in any way”:

The Commission has a longstanding prohibition on call blocking. In the 2007 Call Blocking Order, the Wireline Competition Bureau emphasized that “the ubiquity and reliability of the nation’s telecommunications network is of paramount importance to the explicit goals of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended” and that “Commission precedent provides that no carriers, including interexchange carriers, may block, choke, reduce or restrict traffic in any way.” We find no reason to depart from this conclusion.9

Now, the Commission has authorized unregulated entities to block and label calls based on hunches, guesses, and assumptions without a concrete mechanism for those making legal calls to ensure that those calls complete without a defamatory spam label that the AE’s themselves admit has a negative effect on call completion rates. We do not allow UPS and FedEx to decline package delivery because of a hunch or to slap a label on it that says “you probably don’t want to open this package” or “other recipients didn’t enjoy this mailing.” Communications delivery is equally as important as package delivery. The Commission should be wary of the vast power the AEs currently have over voice communications and refrain from adding to this power by mandating that all voice service providers purchase their services through the proposed mandatory blocking requirement for calls that are “highly likely to be illegal.” Once the AEs have a guaranteed user base for the blocking products, their inaccurate labeling across all service providers will not be far behind.

A better alternative exists—specifically expanding on the “Know Your Customer” requirements and STIR/SHAKEN technology along with the Rich Call Data10 standard developed by ATIS to ensure that the customer’s verified identity is embedded in the call signaling and delivering that information without interference to call recipients, who can make their own decisions about whether the phone should ring, be diverted to voicemail, or blocked. Callers willing to undergo rigorous KYC vetting whose calls are signed with STIR/SHAKEN and who embed their identity in the call signaling should be informed if their calls are labeled. And if a caller using this technology violates the law, the information embedded in the call signaling will lead enforcement agencies straight to their door to stop it.


Numeracle, Inc., is the industry pioneer and leader in verifying the identities of entities placing legal outbound communications and ensuring that verified identity information is transmitted securely to the communication’s recipient.

Numeracle was founded in 2018 to help legal callers navigate the blocking and labeling that carriers and their AE partners instituted to fight illegal robocalls. Numeracle’s customers include financial institutions, government agencies, home repair services, automotive dealers, medical providers, pharmacies, crime victim notification services, and many others. Numeracle is fully committed to eliminating illegal robocalls and believes that the best method to do so is to fully identify legal callers so that carriers, AEs, and enforcement agencies can focus their blocking efforts on illegal callers. Numeracle introduced the three-part process of registration, monitoring, and redress to protect legal callers. To ensure that bad actors do not penetrate the system, Numeracle introduced the concept of KYC from the financial industry to the voice communications world in 2018 at a series of workshops attended by the major carriers and AEs. Numeracle supports the Commission’s efforts to implement robust KYC requirements and has published a model KYC policy to provide guidance for service providers to follow the Commission’s requirement that they know their customers and their upstream providers.11

As the Commission continues its work in fully implementing STIR/SHAKEN and closing the remaining gaps that interfere with ubiquitous end-to-end call signing for all calls, it must strike a nuanced balance between eliminating misbehavior that obscures the actual source of calls while not preventing innovation that will extend the benefits of STIR/SHAKEN. Numeracle’s mission is to apply verified and secured identifying information to a voice call—not just of the originating service provider but of the entity whose identity is behind the call. And Numeracle wants verified identity information to be sent not just to the terminating service provider and its analytics partner but to the handset and incoming call display of the individual receiving the call.


The FCC should reevaluate its decision not to regulate call labeling as the lack of oversight has encouraged poor accuracy and little accountability to legitimate callers affected by inaccurate labeling. The core of the U.S. fight against illegal robocalls since 2016 has been the use of analytics engines to attempt to identify illegal and unwanted calls through big data analysis. Each major wireless carrier has partnered with an AE to assign risk ratings to incoming calls so the carrier can label calls that it suspects to be unwanted or illegal as spam, or to block the calls. The AEs use a variety of data points in their analysis, including call volume, duration, answer rate, customer complaints, STIR/SHAKEN validation, caller registration, and others that the AEs understandably do not disclose out of concern that illegal callers will devise ways around their algorithms if too much information about their algorithms is revealed.

The FCC declined to regulate call labeling in 202012 after the AEs said their processes were fair, sufficient, and free and that regulation was unnecessary.13 The FCC stated that rather than regulate, “we encourage voice service providers and their analytics partners to work in good faith with callers to avoid erroneous labeling so consumers can better decide whether to answer a call.”14 That good faith has not been shown in the two-and-a-half years since that order went into effect. The AEs’ call analysis is flawed and some do not work cooperatively with legal callers to resolve problems.  

When the AEs began operations in the mid to late 2010s, the predominant scam robocall pattern in the United States was large-scale use of a single telephone number or a small number of telephone numbers to place outbound calls. The AEs developed their algorithms to identify these traffic spikes and to block or label them. But since these algorithms were developed, the illegal callers have adapted and now generally spread their calls out with illegal spoofing and, increasingly, use each displayed outbound phone number a single time or a small number of times. Large traffic spikes on a single calling number are not necessarily indicative of illegal calls. In fact, the opposite is true as both legal and illegal callers increasingly spread their traffic across many numbers and several providers, but the AEs continue to flag calls made by Numeracle’s clients making lawful communications if their traffic patterns somehow offend the presumptions about permissible calling patterns made by the AE algorithm creators.  

A. Numeracle Originated A Three-Step Registration/Monitoring/Remediation Process that all Carriers and AEs Have Adopted to Improve the Accuracy of Blocking and Labeling Determinations

Even before the TRACED Act, the voice industry coalesced around a three-part process for legal callers to ensure that their calls were not erroneously blocked or labeled. All three major AEs support the process of registration, monitoring, and remediation. Numeracle’s founder and CEO, Rebekah Johnson, introduced this process at a series of workshops in 2017 and 2018 she hosted that were attended by the major carriers, analytics engines, regulators, and call originators.15

1. Registration

Registration is the process by which legal callers inform the AEs of their phone numbers, sometimes including other data such as call purpose and anticipated volume based on the AE’s requirements. Many call originators register their own numbers, while others chose an agent, such as Numeracle or its competitors, to navigate this complicated landscape. Each of the AEs has a separate registration portal, and the three major AEs collaborated to create, which distributes registrant information to all three major AEs.  

First Orion succinctly described the purpose of registering phone numbers with the AEs: “For over 3 years, we have provided,16 which allows call originators to register their outbound dialing numbers with First Orion. The fact that a number is registered by a legitimate entity is an important data point for our analytics process and can help call originators ensure that no erroneous labeling or blocking of their calls is occurring. We have also collaborated with our largest competitors, TNS and Hiya, to deploy, a site that streamlines the registration process for call originators.”17

2. Monitoring

Legal callers can purchase monitoring services, either directly from some of the AEs or through an agent such as Numeracle.18 Monitoring can be done by either obtaining a scoring report from the AE or by placing test calls and observing the results. Numeracle uses a combination of methods to monitor its customers’ reputation scoring—purchasing scoring data from the AEs, making test calls to devices and screenshotting the results, and empowering our customers to initiate test calls and observe the results directly through a service called Number Check.19

3. Remediation

The third part of the process is remediation or redress of inaccurately labeled phone numbers. Callers or their agents submit remediation requests for individual phone numbers to the carrier or its AE partner. The AE investigates whether it believes the scoring for the submitted numbers is accurate and either maintains the rating or removes the spam label. The current remediation process is the same for both blocking and labeling through the three major AEs.

B. Spam Labels Are Inaccurate and Arbitrary

Numeracle’s remediations of its customer’s telephone number are ever increasing. In 2021, Numeracle successfully remediated 23,677 spam labels on behalf of its customers. That figure increased to 61,111 in 2022 and is trending higher for 2023. A successful remediation is an admission by the AE that its spam label was incorrect. An incorrect spam label is an interference with the ability of a caller to communicate with the called party.

While the AEs told the Commission several years ago that registration and remediation would be free and effective, that has not been the experience of Numeracle and its customers over the past three years. The spam ratings are arbitrary. With one AE, the spam labeling is dependent on whether Numeracle purchases monitoring services. With another, the spam label remediation varies based on the method of submission.

As described in the introduction to these comments, the spam labeling by a major AE increased dramatically when Numeracle did not purchase monitoring services from it and instead tested the reputation scoring on its own with test calls to actual devices. Furthermore, the percentage of remediation requests that the AE honored from Numeracle decreased substantially during that period as well.  

Numeracle and the AE conducted a limited amount of data comparison showing that Numeracle’s testing was consistent with the AE’s data. Furthermore, Numeracle did additional testing after resuming the purchase of monitoring services—again confirming the accuracy of Numeracle’s testing process. Numeracle’s testing was also consistent with its customers own testing showing spam tagging when the AE was stating that phone numbers were not being tagged as potential spam. Numeracle stands behind its testing and is willing to provide additional data to the Commission upon request.

In Numeracle’s experience, another AE provided different results to number registration and remediation depending on the method of submission. When Numeracle submitted its customers’ phone numbers for registration on an individual basis by company, the AE replied 99 percent of the time that it had removed spam labels. These responses formed the basis for Numeracle tracking its remediation success rate with that AE, which historically has been 99 percent. But after the AE instructed Numeracle to submit the phone numbers for all customers together in a batch submission, the responses from the AE dropped to a 77 percent success rate in removing spam labels. Our customers and their calling practices did not change appreciably during this time period. One is left to ponder the accuracy of these spam ratings when the remediation rate depends on the method of submission.

It is important to note that one AE does work cooperatively with legal callers, and its efforts should be recognized. First Orion has created a rebuttable presumption for vetted callers that its calls are not spam:

Numeracle’s remediations of its customer’s telephone number are ever increasing. In 2021, Numeracle successfully remediated 23,677 spam labels on behalf of its customers. That figure increased to 61,111 in 2022 and is trending higher for 2023. A successful remediation is an admission by the AE that its spam label was incorrect. An incorrect spam label is an interference with the ability of a caller to communicate with the called party.

While the AEs told the Commission several years ago that registration and remediation would be free and effective, that has not been the experience of Numeracle and its customers over the past three years. The spam ratings are arbitrary. With one AE, the spam labeling is dependent on whether Numeracle purchases monitoring services. With another, the spam label remediation varies based on the method of submission.

As described in the introduction to these comments, the spam labeling by a major AE increased dramatically when Numeracle did not purchase monitoring services from it and instead tested the reputation scoring on its own with test calls to actual devices. Furthermore, the percentage of remediation requests that the AE honored from Numeracle decreased substantially during that period as well.  

Numeracle and the AE conducted a limited amount of data comparison showing that Numeracle’s testing was consistent with the AE’s data. Furthermore, Numeracle did additional testing after resuming the purchase of monitoring services—again confirming the accuracy of Numeracle’s testing process. Numeracle’s testing was also consistent with its customers own testing showing spam tagging when the AE was stating that phone numbers were not being tagged as potential spam. Numeracle stands behind its testing and is willing to provide additional data to the Commission upon request.

In Numeracle’s experience, another AE provided different results to number registration and remediation depending on the method of submission. When Numeracle submitted its customers’ phone numbers for registration on an individual basis by company, the AE replied 99 percent of the time that it had removed spam labels. These responses formed the basis for Numeracle tracking its remediation success rate with that AE, which historically has been 99 percent. But after the AE instructed Numeracle to submit the phone numbers for all customers together in a batch submission, the responses from the AE dropped to a 77 percent success rate in removing spam labels. Our customers and their calling practices did not change appreciably during this time period. One is left to ponder the accuracy of these spam ratings when the remediation rate depends on the method of submission.

It is important to note that one AE does work cooperatively with legal callers, and its efforts should be recognized. First Orion has created a rebuttable presumption for vetted callers that its calls are not spam:

For example, with, deployed by First Orion over three years ago, call originators can proactively establish in our system that they are legitimately associated with particular calling numbers. This association between legitimate caller(s) and number(s), once vetted by our research and validation team, is another important data point for our analytics: it creates a rebuttable presumption that calls from that number are legitimate. (These registered numbers can also be spoofed, so in order to protect consumers and call originators alike, the option to override the registration must be maintained). There are no fees of any kind associated with registering and registered users can also inquire about potential blocking and labeling issues via the platform.20

Numeracle and First Orion have worked cooperatively on registration, monitoring, and remediation for almost five years, which results in better information for First Orion’s carrier partners’ customers about who is calling them.

C. Analytics Engines Admit Labeling Inaccuracy When Selling Premium Services to Legal Callers

The AEs admit their own labeling inaccuracy in their marketing materials for their paid services. For example, Hiya makes the following statement in its website for branded calling:

Businesses often look to static caller registries to avoid and resolve inaccurate spam labels, but businesses need a comprehensive voice performance strategy to unlock the full power of the world's largest network.

Customers will recognize it's you calling with smarter caller ID technology that delivers caller name, logo and call reason, and you'll outperform competitors amidst the rise in spam calls and caller ID spoofing. 21

What Hiya does not say is that for almost one-third of the consumer voice market in the United States, Hiya is the one doing the inaccurate spam labeling!

Hiya’s competitor TNS has two ways to charge businesses to overcome its inaccurate labeling: branded calling and reputation monitoring. TNS states on its website that “Enterprise Branded Calling controls spam labeling and helps increase answer rates for legitimate callers that follow best practices,22 enhancing overall enterprise calling reputations and boosting your business.”23 TNS also concedes that mis-labeling occurs when selling its reputation monitoring services. “TNS can help enterprises avoid mis-labeling, prevent damage to their brands, and improve call answer rates.”24 TNS sells a solution to its own mis-labeling: TNS Telephone Reputation Monitoring, in which it promises legitimate callers that by paying for a solution, TNS can “[e]nsure your legitimate calls get through and aren’t inadvertently being blocked or tagged as spam.”25 Who is “inadvertently” blocking and tagging? TNS—the same company selling the solution.

First Orion notes that “sometimes you can’t escape the flags” when “numbers are flagged as a scam.”26 First Orion says that “[b]randing your phone calls lets customers know who’s on the other end.”27 Presumably First Orion is not selling to actual scammers, so its branded calling solution must be targeted at callers whose numbers are incorrectly tagged as a scam by First Orion.

D. Real-World Evidence that the Analytics Engines Are Inaccurate

Three recent real-world examples show the gravity of the difficulties legitimate callers face in contacting their customers. Earlier this year Richard Shockey, an industry leader in the fight against illegal robocalls, underwent a routine colonoscopy that required general anesthesia.28 Before the procedure began, the nurse informed Mr. Shockey’s wife that for the remainder of the day, she should answer all calls even those labeled as spam because the hospital's outgoing calls to patients and their caregivers were frequently being labeled as spam and she wouldn’t want to miss an urgent call when her husband was undergoing critical medical care.  

In another case, Numeracle’s chief financial officer was having home renovation work done. His contractor was at a local big-box home improvement store purchasing materials, and the cashier called from the store’s primary, listed phone number to the customer to confirm payment. The call was labeled as “Potential Spam.” If our CFO hadn’t answered, the payment arrangement could not have been made, the project delayed, and many hours of everyone’s time wasted. Numeracle reported this concern to the AE working with our CFO’s terminating carrier and was told that the labeled phone number’s call volume was higher than expected but did not state that the number had been illegally spoofed as a rationale for the spam label. Numeracle’s tests confirmed that that number continued to be labeled as “Potential Spam” for more than a week after reporting the issue to the AE. Did the AE proactively inform the major national chain store that its phone calls were being labeled as “Potential Spam”? No. Did the AE remove the label when notified that it was erroneous? No. The AEs are accountable to no one except their carrier partners.

In April, a Numeracle employee ordered furniture from a leading nationwide retailer. The delivery coordinator told the furniture purchaser: “You will get a call from delivery services on the day of the delivery. We are not sure how the call will show up on your phone but it may say ‘Spam Likely’ so please answer your calls so we do not miss confirming your delivery.”

These are the hurdles that American businesses now face in initiating routine communications with their customers. Is this the end result we are satisfied with in our fight against robocalls? Is this a reasonable obstacle law-abiding callers should have to overcome? The FCC’s consumer complaint webpage for telephone calls provides guidance on complaints for unwanted calls but provides no information for submitting complaints to the FCC about inaccurate labeling of calls those consumers want to receive.29 The Commission should enable an easy submission process for consumers who have received calls with inaccurate spam labels and for businesses and other callers whose calls have been inaccurately labeled.

E. The Accuracy of Spam Ratings Among Analytics Engines is Far Lower than their Claimed 99+ Percent Accuracy Would Suggest

The major wireless carriers and their AE partners claim extremely high accuracy rates about their blocking and labeling decisions. In 2021, AT&T claimed a false positive rate for labeling and blocking of less than one hundredth of one percent. “Call originators who have calls that are blocked or labeled can use the same web portal to submit a request for redress at no charge. Based on user reports for March, less than one hundredth of one percent of calls are false positives.”30 T-Mobile’s partner First Orion states that for blocking and labeling “[o]ur current error rate based on reported false positives is a fraction of 1% of all calls we analyze.”31 Verizon states that its false positive rate for blocking and labeling is “extremely low” and states that “[l]ess than 0.2% of originating numbers identified as high risk robocalls are reported as having been incorrectly blocked.”32 None of these data points are credible given that the data on false positives relies on “user reports,” “reported false positives, ” and “reported” errors. Given that there was no obligation for the AEs to report blocking or labeling to the call originator, there is no reason to assume that call originators were aware of the imposition of call labeling or blocking and what percentage of incorrect call labeling or blocking was reported back to the carrier or AE.33 The AEs cannot know the accuracy of their own blocking and labeling determinations as they have only their own algorithm as a benchmark with no objective source to compare it to.

If the AEs were accurate, there would be no market for their branded calling solutions that the AEs admit are to overcome inaccurate spam labels that negatively affect contact rates.  

If the AEs were accurate, one would expect a high correlation among their spam ratings for individual phone numbers. There is no reason to suspect that calling patterns differ materially by terminating carrier as callers—both legal and illegal—rarely if ever are aware of the provider for the call recipient, let alone have different calling practices depending on the terminating carrier. Accordingly, one would assume that the same telephone numbers would be tagged simultaneously by the AEs if their labeling decisions were accurate.

Numeracle’s data shows a low correlation among spam labeling by the AEs, which undermines their claims of 99 percent or more accuracy with their blocking and labeling decisions. Numeracle compared the spam ratings for its customers provided by the three major AEs for the second quarter of 2023. First Orion only labeled a handful of numbers as spam because it does have an effective registration process for legal callers as discussed earlier. Combined, Hiya and TNS labeled 63,224 of Numeracle’s customers’ numbers as spam during one or more weeks in the quarter, but for only 16 percent of the numbers that were flagged one or more times by either AE did both Hiya and TNS rate the same number as spam during the quarter. The actual percentage of matching spam ratings in any particular week is undoubtedly lower as our analysis only looked at whether the number was marked as spam at any point in the quarter rather than looking at a week-by-week comparison given that the AEs state that their labels are dynamic and change frequently based on calling patterns. This low correlation of spam ratings undermines the AEs’ contention that their blocking and labeling decisions are 99 percent accurate as to reported false positives.

F. The Commission Should Collect Data about Labeling

There is no transparency requirement for the entities exercising unprecedented power over communications delivery. No one, including the Commission, knows with certainty how many calls have been labeled or blocked, what percentage of numbers have been registered, how many false blocking or labeling remediation requests have been submitted, or how often those requests resulted in the removal of blocking or labeling. How can callers, the Commission, and most importantly consumers have trust in a system managed behind closed doors with no oversight or transparency? How can AEs themselves accurately assess the effectiveness of their actions when their awareness of instances of false positive labeling is limited to those callers that manage to 1) become aware of labeling despite having no notification requirement from the AE and 2) understand and submit a request for remediation to the appropriate party?

Unfortunately, Numeracle does not have comprehensive data about the volume of spam labeling either. The only entities that have such data about the frequency of spam labeling are the carriers and their AE partners, but they are not sharing this data with callers, regulators, or companies like Numeracle that monitor phone number reputation. Numeracle obtains weekly reports from some AEs about its customers, and for others does its own testing. But Numeracle does not have comprehensive information about call volumes and the exact numbers of calls that are labeled as spam across all callers. Only when we have comprehensive data about labeling in general can we begin to examine the frequency of inaccurate labeling. The data Numeracle does have—such as the data in the previous section about the correlation among the AEs in their labeling determinations—and anecdotal data points suggest that a robust data collection is needed to understand the scope of incorrect labeling. The fact that an entire industry of branded calling has arisen to counter inaccurate spam labeling suggests that the magnitude of the problem is quite large.

Blocking and labeling must be done with consumer choice and a focus on mitigating illegal calls. But we have no metrics to measure effectiveness. The Commission does not have the labeling performance information it needs to fully appreciate the negative impact that systemically affects legal callers. Because the FCC has jurisdiction over terminating carriers, the Commission has authority to require reporting and to collect data about the outcomes of blocking and labeling programs. How many calls are blocked or labeled? How many remediation requests do the AEs receive? How often are they granted or denied? Are bad callers trying to register or remediate? We simply do not have the answers to these questions currently, and good public policy requires an accurate data set before allowing the AEs unbridled control over call labeling and blocking.

G. Commission Should Not Delegate Labeling Authority to Analytics Engines

Letting the AEs decide whether and how to label calls without Commission oversight is contrary to the basic concept of common carriage that has been the foundation for U.S. telecom policy since the passage of the 1934 Act. By declining to create and enforce labeling standards, the Commission has privatized regulatory authority over voice communications and call labeling and given that authority to the AEs.

Allowing the same entities to block and label calls and then sell the solutions to inaccurate labeling is fundamentally anticompetitive. By avoiding the responsibility of regulating labeling practices, the Commission has left it to the AEs to decide which calls get through unscathed.

Numeracle’s comments herein document our experience thus far, and without intervention we can only expect the costs extracted for lawful callers to increase. Ultimately, those costs are passed onto consumers, and many will leave the public switched telephone network for proprietary closed systems that do not have the requirements of common carriage or universal service. The market cannot correct the problems that have arisen. Each terminating service provider has a monopoly on access to its customers, and each major wireless provider has contracted with a single AE to make blocking and labeling decisions for it. Callers frustrated with inaccurate labeling cannot bypass the processes that the AEs have imposed with their carrier partners. They either have to endure inaccurate labeling, forego contacting their customers with a telephone call, or pay for a solution.

H. Erroneous Labeling Has Harmed the Number Pool and Contributes to Number Churning and Exhaust

Active phone numbers are not the only ones labeled as spam. Some AEs have begun to negatively rate dormant numbers—even those that were just allocated by NANPA to a carrier. The AE logic makes sense—until recently, those numbers were unassigned and any traffic on them is presumably spoofed and/or illegal. This is why the Commission has allowed blocking of unallocated and unassigned numbers for several years.  

Unfortunately, the AEs do not update their ratings when the numbers are allocated and assigned and go into active use. The authorized users of the new numbers note that their calls are labeled as spam from day one and drop those numbers in search of new, untainted numbers to use. This practice leads to undesirable number rotation and contributes to number exhaustion.

Numeracle has gathered some data on this practice but has not yet conducted an exhaustive study (pun intended). Numeracle worked with a number provider to random selected 100 numbers out of a newly allocated block of 1,000 numbers in the 930 area code. None of the numbers have ever been assigned to a customer. In the test, Hiya rated 32 percent of the numbers as spam and TNS rated 24 percent as potential spam. First Orion did not rate any as spam. Interestingly, there was only an overlap of 10 numbers of the 32 rated as spam by Hiya and 24 rated as spam by TNS.  

Numeracle has learned that number providers and OSPs caution their customers to “warm up” new numbers as using the number as planned with full call volume from day one either causes spam labeling or causes the preexisting spam label to continue. Callers are warned to gradually ramp up the volume over time. But that begs the question of who gave the AEs the right to tell legal callers how their numbers should be used and what volume of calls is acceptable and will not result in inaccurate spam labeling for newly assigned numbers?

I. Callers that Have Been Vetted through KYC and Sign Calls with Rich Call Data About Identity Should Be Informed When their Calls Are Labeled

The nation’s fight against robocalls has been hindered by the good callers following the tactics of bad callers and vice versa if those tactics work to get calls delivered without blocking or labeling. Lawmakers and regulators have justifiably been wary of enacting obligations that could help bad callers circumvent the obstacles we are trying to place in their way. But these efforts have smothered the ability of legal callers to get insight into how their calls are treated. Currently there is no transparency and accountability in the system created by the AEs. But there is a solution.

Callers that are willing to provide identifying information and embed that information into the Rich Call Data in the call signaling should be informed if their calls are labeled. With some additional standards and engineering work, SIP technology is capable of transmitting this information back upstream to the caller. Just as there have been three suggested approaches in SIP for immediate blocking notification, there can be multiple possible approaches for immediate labeling notification.34 Callers making illegal calls will be strongly disincentivized to submit to vetting and embedding their identity in the call signal as this would lead a path for enforcement straight to their door. The traceback process operated by USTelecom has been highly effective in tracing bad calls to the originating service provider. Why not take that one step forward and use traceforward in which the caller’s and originating provider’s identities are embedded in the call signaling, obviating the need for traceback at all?

Numeracle has previously proposed that using global identity standards provides a strong foundation with widespread support and implementation for identification standards for call originators.35 Fortunately, the hard work in this space has been done by the Global Legal Entity Identifier Foundation (GLEIF), which is a Not-For-Profit organization established by the Financial Stability Board of the G20.  

GLEIF oversees a globally recognized process for verifying the identity of entities such as businesses, non-profits, NGOs, governmental agencies, and the like. Each entity is assigned a globally unique Legal Entity Identifier (LEI) that it can then use in transactions. Numeracle’s CEO recently participated with GLEIF CEO Stephan Wolf and others in a panel discussion at a Mobile Ecosystem Forum event in London about how entity and organizational identities can be used to combat fraud in communications.36 With a standard system of identification, whether using the LEI or another identifier, we can use RCD to transmit actionable identity information about the caller to the call recipient.  

The Commission will never be able to thoroughly monitor the processes of all voice service providers to ensure they vigorously verify caller identity to the standard required for a trusted RCD-based future, nor should it try. Service providers sell phone services—they are not business identity specialists. Robust KYC and verification standards should be established and then performed by entities authorized and overseen by existing standards organizations such as GLEIF and a body authorized by the Commission. Such a body can establish additional robust KYC processes to enrich the calling party identifier with additional verified attributes that can both enhance AE call analytics and empower further consumer control over calls received. Businesses can be separately verified by vetting entities and then re-use their verified identity for all communications, increasing enterprise control and reducing the inefficiencies of duplicate verification. Consumers should envision a potential future in which they are able to choose to block or accept calls from a legal entity as a whole rather than a specific phone number.

Additionally, Numeracle requests that the Commission create rules that require carriers and their AE partners to accept phone number registration data from vetted entities for free and use that information in their labeling algorithms. The FCC should enact requirements that AEs and carriers work cooperatively with legal callers and their agents to vet callers with strict KYC requirements and then create a presumption of legality for signed calls such that the calls should not be blocked or labeled absent evidence of spoofing or that the caller is not fulfilling its commitments. Trust goes both ways. First Orion has already shown that such a process is workable and does not result in customers receiving illegal calls from vetted callers.  

The Commission has created a safe harbor for AEs that make errors in their blocking decisions if done based on reasonable analytics informed by STIR/SHAKEN. Likewise, the Commission should create a labeling safe harbor for legal callers who submit to a thorough KYC process, embed their identity in the call signaling, and make themselves known and available to enforcement. These callers should not be immune from liability for violating the TCPA or other laws governing lawful calling practices, but they should be able to get their calls through without being erroneously categorized as spam.


The Commission should not adopt its proposal to require CNAM display for calls with an A attestation. CNAM is obsolete and insecure. Additionally, the industry is misusing A attestations. Illegal calls are arriving with A attestations, and voice service providers have engaged in horse trading in which carriers placing A attestations do not necessarily have accurate KYC knowledge of the caller and its right to use the phone number.

The current branded calling solutions sold by Numeracle and the AEs are an improvement over conventional CNAM as they allow the caller to control how its identity is presented to the call recipient. But the current iteration of branded calling has security issues and is merely a stopgap on the way to a better solution. Verified Identity Presentation using Rich Call Data on top of STIR/SHAKEN is the solution consumers, the industry, and the Commission are looking for.  

A. CNAM is Obsolete and Not Secure

Traditional CNAM has never required any type of data validation or a formal, industry-mandated KYC process. There is no single authoritative CNAM database but instead there are multiple commercial CNAM database offerings that compete and that are not fully synchronized, which is a vulnerability for abuse and the source of confusion for purchasers of CNAM services who learn that their information is not always correctly displayed even in the absence of labeling. Bad actors have abused this lack of safeguards and in turn, have abused the trust of users of the voice network.

In today’s STIR/SHAKEN model, the expectation is that an attestation level of “A” or “B” implies a certain minimal threshold of KYC. However, no KYC or other accuracy review is generally performed on subscribers’ CNAM information. Call originators generally have the ability to set their own CNAM. In short, there are no formal controls over how or by whom CNAM is collected or set, and no requirement or common practice of CNAM review or validation by originating or intermediate service providers.  

Additionally, there is no review of CNAM accuracy at the terminating end. Terminating carriers have generally decided to have their AE partner analyze calls ahead of any lookup of CNAM information, meaning that 1) AEs are not in possession of CNAM information when deciding whether to block or label calls, and 2) only if a call is not blocked or labeled will a terminating carrier then determine whether or not to look up and display CNAM information to the call recipient. The decision of whether to display CNAM information is generally based on the carrier’s own business rules and not any evaluation of CNAM accuracy. Carriers could have chosen to perform CNAM lookup first and use CNAM information as part of AE call analysis but did not do so. While Numeracle does not believe that carriers view call blocking or labeling as a cost saving measure, placing AE analysis ahead of CNAM lookup has the benefit of saving carriers an unknown but likely significant amount of money because they do not pull CNAM information for calls that are blocked or labeled.  

STIR/SHAKEN is the responsibility of the originating provider but CNAM display is the responsibility of the terminating provider, who may choose from a number of databases when looking up CNAM information. Accordingly, the chain of trust from the caller to the call recipient is broken with no means of ensuring that the CNAM information has been obtained and verified by the originating provider or call signer, meaning the attestation level of a call has zero relation to the accuracy of CNAM. We need a new system that can 1) actually verify caller information, and 2) ensure the secure transmission of this information across a chain of trust.  

In short, no one is reviewing CNAM and call originators are able to transmit whatever information (including incorrect or misleading information) they want without actual KYC in place. This runs contrary to both the Commission’s and consumers’ expectations in having improved calling party information and an industry alignment to mitigate spoofing and improve consumer trust.  

B. Current Branded Calling Products are Not Secure

Numeracle currently sells branded calling and believes that this service provides value for some customers. There is little incentive for scam callers to spoof the phone numbers of certain types of outbound calling customers (such as sales calls in response to a customer inquiry, or appointment reminders) in an attempt to falsely impersonate the business, and Numeracle supports and provides branded calling for them today. But until there is a secure end-to-end pathway with verified identity, Numeracle cannot, in good conscience, recommend branded calling for outbound callers where there is a strong incentive for bad actors to spoof the number.

One of Numeracle’s customers for reputation management is a federal government agency that has been the victim of widespread impersonation fraud. Compounding the difficulty this agency faces is that its legitimate outbound calls were sometimes being labeled as “Potential Spam” or “Spam Likely.” That agency hired Numeracle to register its numbers with the AEs, monitor the reputation scoring, and remediate incorrect labels as needed. The agency also inquired about branded calling. Numeracle recommended that the agency not purchase branded calling in its current iteration from Numeracle or anyone else as the pathway is not secure. If the agency implemented branded calling and the number was spoofed by a bad actor, the spoofed call would also display the branding information, which could be catastrophic for trust in calls from this agency. Likewise, financial institutions should be hesitant to use branded calling today. The undersigned received a call from his credit card issuer that spoofed the bank’s legitimate customer service telephone number. The call was a phishing expedition for personal data but was convincing because the caller had access to current account balance information. If calls like this had the additional apparent security of a branded calling display, the risks to the call recipients are multiplied.

One of Numeracle’s competitors for branded calling touts the ease of use of its service because no changes to the SIP header are required nor integration with the contact center software.37 That is precisely the problem. The AEs and their carrier partners apply the branding solution display to any call that arrives with a phone number activated for branded calling—whether it’s signed or not and whether it originated from the actual caller or was spoofed. In fact, Numeracle’s test platform spoofs phone numbers with our clients’ consent to test branded call display, and thus far, we’ve seen no difference in display from signed calls coming in from the actual customer and our test calls that are unsigned and arrive via a different carrier pathway.

Numeracle has been informed that harmful branded calling spoofing is happening in the real world to a household name telecom provider, whose branded calls to its customers are being successfully spoofed by bad actors using the existing branded calling architecture. While there is little incentive to spoof an installation appointment reminder, there are strong incentives to spoof customer service calls, such as a call about delinquent payments that could be used as a phishing expedition for bank account or credit card data. When these calls arrive with false branding information, the potential for harm increases because consumers trust the branded display.

Another concern with current branded calling solutions is the relationship between branded calling and spam labeling. While paid branded calling services should not be a paid bypass to the AEs’ efforts to block and label illegal calls, Numeracle’s branded calling customers do undergo vetting through a KYC process. The willingness to undergo vetting, commit to obeying the law, and displaying one’s identity should be a strong factor weighing against spam labeling absent evidence of spoofing. If the caller’s practices are so egregious as to merit spam labeling, the AE should not have authorized branded calling in the first place.38 Customers purchasing branded calling are the opposite of the under-the-radar bad actors who do not want their identity verified or displayed and are trying to avoid identifying themselves—both to the recipients of their calls and to enforcement authorities to knock on their door with a subpoena.  

Numeracle monitors its customers behavior and has terminated customers who do not comply with our standards. The bad actors know to go elsewhere. At a recent trade show, one large-volume caller informed a Numeracle sales representative that his company chose another provider to assist with spam labeling because “Numeracle asks too many questions” about his company’s identity and calling practices. Losing a potential customer in this way is exactly why Numeracle enacted and published stringent KYC standards.  

C. Secure End-to-End Identity with STIR/SHAKEN and Rich Call Data is the Future Framework for Secure Calling

Numeracle sells branded calling services and believes in the value of branded calling for legal callers. Branded calling should present an accurate name and/or logo to mobile phones that, without branded calling, typically only display calling number and do not display the caller’s name as CNAM is not universal for mobile phones. But purchasing branded calling should not be a necessity for vetted callers placing legal calls to avoid spam labeling.  

Numeracle has spent years developing technology and working with industry partners to enable secure transmission of the caller’s identity through the call path to the terminating device.39 While originally envisioned as a premium service for enterprises, government agencies, and other high-volume callers to ensure that their calls to their customers and stakeholders are accurately identified and not erroneously blocked or labeled, Numeracle now believes that this technology should be the baseline for voice communications going forward. All callers—whether enterprises, small businesses, government agencies, or individuals—should be securely identified and have that identity transmitted through the call signaling to the terminating device with verification that the information has not been spoofed or tampered with.40  

Numeracle recognized the value of STIR/SHAKEN as a core technology in fighting robocalls but thought it did not go far enough. STIR/SHAKEN is designed to transmit the identity of the originating service provider and what that provider knows about the caller in terms of whether there is a “direct, authenticated relationship” with the caller and whether the caller has the right to use the displayed phone number to the terminating service provider. That’s it. It does not include the identity of the calling party other than a phone number (which may be legally spoofed in some circumstances), nor is there any guarantee that the verified information makes its way to the device of the call recipient.  

Figure 1. Carrier to Carrier TRACED Act Implementation

Branded calling has value as the launchpad for a superior call delivery system that incorporates STIR/SHAKEN at its core but extends the system at both ends. At the originating end of the call, the process should not begin with the originating service provider’s STIR/SHAKEN attestation. The OSP should have a careful KYC process in place, and the OSP should also embed the caller’s identity into the call signaling. The Rich Call Data technologies and standards to do this are imminent41 and implementation is just around the corner. At the terminating end, the STIR/SHAKEN verification information should not just be viewed by the terminating service provider and its AE partner or hidden in the call log on the device after the call is completed. Instead, the caller’s name and, optionally, its logo should be presented to the call recipient with an indicator that the information has been verified and transmitted securely.  

Numeracle has made several advances beyond the base STIR/SHAKEN framework to further the goal of end-to-end verified identified communications. KYC concepts introduced by Numeracle have become a core part of the global effort to combat illegal robocalls.42 The Federal Communications Commission has mandated that voice service providers enact and follow KYC policies for both their call origination customers and upstream service providers. 

Consumers ultimately want to know who is calling and why, regardless of the phone number being used to place the call. If consumers reliably know who is calling, they can decide whether calls are “wanted” far more effectively than any third party and they can exercise control over their communications. If the communications ecosystem identifies callers, it can then focus anti-robocall efforts on quickly pursuing enforcement against those making unlawful calls and those callers who are unwilling or unable to identify themselves. The diagram below shows Numeracle’s proposed call flow that incorporates KYC, Rich Call Data, STIR/SHAKEN, and Verified Identity Presentation at the terminating device.

Figure2. End-to-End Authenticated Caller Identification Framework

Our collective efforts here are ultimately to protect consumers, who do not care about which originating service provider placed the call or the phone number used, which is all that STIR/SHAKEN does today. Identifying the originating carrier is a means to an end, but not the end in itself. What consumers want to know is that the name on their incoming call screen is who it purports to be. The efforts of industry and regulators should be to develop the regulatory framework and implement the technology that makes that happen. The individual tools, such as traceback, STIR/SHAKEN, KYC, and others are merely aids that enable the verification, transmission, and display of identity to the recipient of the communication. 

The Commission should pursue standards for authenticating the identity of calling parties, especially the identities of legitimate large-volume callers, and require service providers to transmit these authenticated identifiers to the call recipient. Such a system could be scaled and standardized considerably by authorizing non-service provider registration agents to work either directly with callers or in conjunction with service providers to authenticate callers via a standard process. Registration agents could be overseen by the Commission or an authorized industry body to ensure appropriate actions are taken. 

One Numeracle customer that exemplifies the need for secure end-to-end calling with verified identity is a crime victim notification service that places automated calls to crime victims when the incarceration status of the criminal who harmed them changes—such as release, transfer, or death. For crime victims, timely notification about a criminal who has a vendetta against them can literally be a matter of life or death. Appriss was founded in 1994 with the creation of the VINE network, a victim notification network that empowers victims with timely and reliable information regarding incarcerated persons. VINE uses Appriss' incarceration data network to deliver more than 25 million notifications every year and is utilized by 47 states to protect crime victims.43

The manner in which the VINE notification system conducts calls differs from state to state. Typically, the registrant chooses a PIN that must be reentered when the calls arrive to acknowledge receipt of the message and stop the calls; otherwise, the system continues to call until the PIN is entered. This prevents inappropriate disclosure of private information or interference with the call delivery by unauthorized persons with access to the device. Because of the calling patterns mandated by each state and the PIN requirement, Appriss’ calls are sometimes reported as spam by call recipients who have forgotten their PIN, were registered by someone else (whether purposefully or accidentally), or have a number reassigned from someone who previously registered for the service.  

When the undersigned was counsel for Sprint, he required Sprint’s AE partner to issue an override for VINE calls to ensure that calls were not blocked or labeled as spam so that crime victims received notification about changes to the incarceration status of the person who harmed them. The AE partner was reluctant to issue the override and initially insisted on retaining the spam label due to complaints about the service from call recipients who did not understand the mandated calling patterns established by state law. Numeracle worked with Appriss to develop calling patterns to minimize the likelihood of the AEs imposing spam labeling.  

Unfortunately, Appriss has also been the victim of spoofing, which has resulted in some AEs reimposing spam labels on these calls. Numeracle concedes that the AEs are in a bind—while the majority of these calls are critical, wanted, and legally mandated, there is also harm to the customer when a bad actor impersonates the number to try to avoid blocking and labeling. Numeracle’s verified identity presentation detailed above in this section is the solution to this problem as the caller’s identification is verified, transmitted securely, and displayed on the terminating device. Any attempts to spoof the number—even with a signed call under STIR/SHAKEN—will not result in the verified identity presentation of caller name and logo to the recipient.

Finally, secure calling relies on end-to-end STIR/SHAKEN with no gaps. The Commission should eliminate all exemptions and extensions to full STIR/SHAKEN implementation for any intermediate carrier, and eventually followed by all carriers that currently have exemptions or extensions. If a carrier does anything other than originate or terminate a call—regardless of size or financial resources—it must use STIR/SHAKEN over an IP connection. Period. Anything else is undermining the effort and resources the rest of the industry expended to deploy STIR/SHAKEN.  


While the Commission’s proposal to require terminating voice service providers to install mandatory opt-out blocking of calls highly likely to be illegal seems like a beneficial step at first glance, it is problematic because the AEs decision-making about blocking is suspect and because it is a massive delegation of responsibility from the Commission to the unregulated AEs.

The Commission has settled on a standard of “highly likely to be illegal” as a basis for call blocking.44 There are two categories of calls, in the Commission’s view, that are highly likely to be illegal. The first is invalid, unallocated, and unassigned numbers. The second is calls that do not fit these categories but that are determined to be highly likely to be illegal based on human oversight.45 The FCC has enacted a safe harbor allowing, but not requiring, that calls in the second category be blocked. Furthermore, the Commission correctly declined to mandate gateway providers block calls that are highly likely to be illegal based on reasonable analytics.46 The Commission identified the difficulties in using this definition for mandatory blocking.47

This FNPRM resurrects this requirement, with a twist of making it opt-out. While the original “highly likely to be illegal” standard was relatively objective for invalid, unallocated, and unassigned numbers, the current proposal still does not put any meat on the bones of the phrase “highly likely to be illegal.”

One reason that our fight against illegal and unwanted robocalls is struggling is because the words “illegal” and “unwanted” have never been defined. While “illegal” may seem to be self-explanatory, there are various categories of illegal calls. Some are illegal because they violate the Telemarketing Sales Rule about time of day. Others are illegal because they facially perpetuate a scam, such as impersonating the IRS. Others are illegal because they violate the Do-Not-Call rules or the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. But some are only illegal because the caller does not have express consent for a commercial call as required by the Commission’s rules. How do the carriers and AEs purport to know whether the caller has express consent? If the caller sequentially dials every phone number in an area code, it’s reasonable to presume that consent is non-existent or forged, but currently the AEs are not relying on objective standards and instead using inaccurate algorithms based on uncontextualized, crowd-sourced information and call patterns to guess at consent and the wantedness of a call. The AEs then impose spam labels for callers whose calling patterns do not align with the AE’s proprietary algorithm. Even for other categories of illegal calls, the legality is generally not known without access to the identity of the caller and the content of the call, which the AEs and carriers are not generally privy to. An entire industry of TCPA attorneys is actively litigating the legality of calls in cases that often remain disputed despite hundreds of hours of review and the exchange of countless documents. We would not replace those attorneys, judges, and juries with ChatGPT and trust it to deliver objective opinions on call legality. Why would we trust algorithmic filtering with far less complexity and comparatively minimal data to not only assess call legality but also actively disrupt potentially critical communications with minimal accountability or oversight? We need to take bold action to stop illegal calls, but we cannot and should not do so at any cost.

Similarly, a call that is wanted by one recipient is unwanted by others. While AEs and carriers may consider entire classes of calls to be unwanted, such as debt collection or sales calls for certain types of products, some call recipients have expressly chosen to receive such calls or derive value in receiving such calls. People who pay their bills on time may welcome calls from a debt collector so they can correct an error on their account that they may otherwise be unaware of or to rectify an inadvertently missed payment. Other call recipients may have used a comparison shopping website and given express consent to be contacted about a proposed purchase. Again, the AEs and carriers have no information about whether the call recipient has consent and “wants” the call.

The Commission’s decision not to define these categories and place guardrails around various interpretations has led to AEs unilaterally defining these terms without regulatory oversight or input from callers and call recipients. The AEs then label calls based on their own standards. The entities least likely to know the legality of the call are those at the terminating end, such as the AEs and the terminating carrier. They do not have a relationship with the caller, have not performed a KYC due diligence on the caller, and do not even know who it is or what other phone number it uses. Yet these are the entities that the Commission has given unbridled power to block calls they believe are illegal and label calls as unwanted.


The Commission has authority to regulate practices by analytics engines performing labeling services for a carrier subject to the Commission’s jurisdiction. The same authority that permits the FCC to require blocking based on reasonable analytics48 allows the FCC to regulate those analytics, whether performed by the carrier itself or outsourced to a third-party AE.

Section 7 of the TRACED Act that allows the Commission to protect consumers from spoofed calls requires it to consider “the effectiveness in verifying the accuracy of caller identification information.”49 Current labeling practices involve replacing the caller identification display with a phrase such as “Spam Likely” or “Potential Spam.” Accordingly, the Commission’s authority to protect consumers from spoofed calls empowers it to regulate the caller identification display that is provided as spam labeling.

Section 4(b)(4)(B) of the TRACED Act gives the Commission authority to revise or replace the STIR/SHAKEN call authentication framework. This gives the Commission full authority to impose requirements beyond the ATIS STIR/SHAKEN standard under its authority to “revise” the framework. Those revisions could include requirements on how call authentication technologies should be used to display spam labeling on consumer devices.

The Commission has relied on the Truth in Caller ID Act and Section 251(e) to regulate the accurate display of Caller ID information. These sections bolster the Commission’s authority to regulate call labeling, which is one aspect of how the industry is attempting to provide accurate caller ID display.

As described above, the AE call labeling practices are contributing to number exhaust and encouraging number rotation practices. The Commission has exclusive jurisdiction under 47 USC § 251(e) to regulate numbering practices.

Finally, the Commission has its full Section 201 and 202 authority, along with ancillary jurisdiction, to regulate the practices of the carriers, which includes the labeling displays on devices of their customers—whether made by the carrier or outsourced to a third-party AE.  


The Commission must take immediate action to preserve the utility of voice communications as inaccurate labeling threatens the ability of legal callers to communicate with the intended recipients of their calls. The Commission should:  

  • Institute a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to require AEs to provide labeling data to callers who undergo a thorough KYC and embed their identity in the call signaling using Rich Call Data;
  • Encourage the adoption of Rich Call Data as an adjunct to STIR/SHAKEN to allow secure transmission of identifying information from the caller to the recipient’s device;
  • Decline to require carriers to block calls based on reasonable analytics;
  • and Decline to require carriers to present CNAM display for calls signed with an A attestation because CNAM is insecure and often inaccurate.

Respectfully submitted,


Keith Buell
General Counsel and Head of Global Public Policy

Rebekah Johnson
Founder and CEO

Sarah Delphey
Pierce Gorman
Brett Nemeroff

7918 Jones Branch Drive
4th Floor
McLean, VA, US 22102
October 3, 2022

Full Filing Details
Ready to take control of how your identity is presented to consumers? 
The full details of this filing are also posted on the FCC's Filings and Proceedings Portal. To view this content there, use the button below.
View Full FCC Filing Details