Text message and foreign-call spoofers, beware

Brother Ray

For a hot minute, at least, we’re going to talk about the Repack Airwaves Yielding Better Access for Users of Modern Services Act of 2018, or the RAY BAUMS Act.

Who was Ray Baum, you might ask, besides the recipient of an incredibly ham-handed acronymic compliment?

Baum was an Oregon politician, a member of that state’s house of representatives and its majority leader, a lobbyist, and a public servant. Among the many roles he performed in a long and storied career, he served as senior policy adviser to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Communications and Technology (there’s no good acronym for that).

Baum passed away in early 2018, a well-admired bipartisan figure. Officials and businesspeople including Federal Communications Commission (FCC or Commission) Chairman Ajit Pai offered praise for Baum’s career and character.

Hence the namesake, a grab bag of a bill that reauthorized the FCC and tackled several Commission reforms and spectrum-access issues, including the establishment of a new Broadcast Repack Fund that will cover several radio and television station relocations. The bill became law at the end of March 2018.

The RAY BAUMS Act has been commended as a rare bipartisan effort. As one industry outlet put it, “From the many, and mostly glowing, floor speeches in advance of the vote, there was the definite sense that Baum’s spirit of bipartisanship and consensus, plus his hard work on the issues addressed, helped power the compromise on the bill that resulted in passage.”

Well done, Ray.

The Takeaway

So, why is the act important?

The RAY BAUMS Act extends an important provision of the Truth in Caller ID Act of 2009. That act forbade the transmission of misleading or inaccurate caller ID information “with the intent to defraud, cause harm or wrongly obtain anything of value” – the practice known as “spoofing.” The RAY BAUMS Act extends the same prohibition to text messages and international calls, a new initiative that the FCC has taken on in the hope of reducing instances of illegal spoofing.

According to the Commission, combating unwanted calls is “the agency’s top consumer protection priority.”

Anyone who has been plagued by sales or scam calls in the past few years knows that many of these calls are made from outside the United States. The RAY BAUMS Act will help the Commission expand its enforcement activities against a whole new population of spoofers.

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