FCC Says Spam Must Be Blocked From Cellphones, PDAs

Rhett Pardon
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday issued new rules that target companies sending unwanted spam on wireless devices. In a separate decision, the FCC has tentatively concluded that broadband providers are covered under federal wiretap laws.

In the spam case, regulators voted to approve regulations that ban companies from sending messages offering products and services to cellphones and personal digital assistants without getting prior consent from the person receiving the message.

The FCC in a unanimous vote interpreted the scope of what falls within the definition of a "commercial" message, but emphasized that the Federal Trade Commission would be ultimately responsible for deciding what is a commercial message and what is a "transactional" or "relationship" message.

The rules implement the Can-Spam Act passed by Congress last year in an attempt to prevent unwanted marketing routed to cellphones and PDAs. Spam delivery on cellphones is costly for consumers because they can incur charges when they receive the messages.

In the tentative decision on broadband, the FCC said those providers are covered by the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act.

For the first time, broadband providers would be required to ensure their systems are CALEA-compliant and would pay the cost of implementation under the proposal. The decision applies to a range of broadband Internet access services, including cable modem, satellite, wireless, powerline, wireline and Voice over Internet Protocol services, with the exception of peer-to-peer VoIP services.

“Our support for law enforcement is unwavering,” FCC Chairman Michael Powell said in a statement. “It is our goal in this proceeding to ensure that law enforcement agencies have all of the electronic surveillance capabilities that CALEA authorizes to combat crime and terrorism and support homeland security.”

In a companion ruling, the FCC said that commercial wireless “push-to-talk” services are subject to CALEA, regardless of the technologies that commercial mobile radio service providers choose to apply in offering them.