FCC boss Ajit Pai has put forward a new set of changes to the rules it will use to govern US telcos, potentially reducing privacy protections and local government rights in the process.
The US comms chairman said on Thursday that the rules will help to improve competition among broadband providers and make it easier for police to deliver alert warnings and track down people who make threatening calls.
"One of the reasons why Congress created the FCC – a reason it embedded in the very first section of the Communications Act of 1934 – was 'for the purpose of promoting safety of life and property through the use of wire and radio communications'," Pai said.
"At our next public meeting on June 22, the FCC will aim to meet this charge by considering three ways to help law enforcement and first responders do their jobs."
The FCC head says his next planned moves include:
- Creating an emergency alert for threats against law enforcement officers. This would call for "Blue Alert" messages to be delivered alongside other emergency alert messages.
- Mandating that all state communications networks be updated to be interoperable with the new FirstNet Network, and creating a set of requirements for states that opt not to participate in the new emergency services network.
- Changing the rules it has to protect the anonymity of people seeking to block the Caller ID system. Under this perhaps most-controversial proposed change, Pai would give both law enforcement and the targeted parties the ability to unmask callers.
"The FCC's current rules require voice providers not to reveal blocked Caller ID information or to use that information to allow the person getting a call to contact the caller," Pai said.
"These rules have an important purpose, but they can raise a particular public safety concern."
The new rules would raise obvious objections on privacy grounds, potentially suppressing free speech by giving callers little confidence in anonymous caller protections and undercutting the basic principles of anonymous call services.
At the same time, the rule could also help police catch those who abuse the anonymous call services to make threats, without the worry of retribution.
The commission will vote on the proposals at its next meeting on June 22. ®