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I said I wanted to keep the FCC away from the internet. - Absorbed

About I said I wanted to keep the FCC away from the internet.

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I'm an optimist. I need to be an optimist. So when I found myself wishing my cell phone was a little more intelligent earlier today I started thinking of the non-obvious things it can do thanks to services like Jott, Slydial and Google 411 and decided to go looking for more. The obvious starting point was Lifehacker and they did not disappoint. I quickly found an article full of nifty service tricks (although I still couldn't do half because I can't send/receive texts) one of which was a service that would call you with one of several half conversations at the time you specified so that people around you would hear someone on your phone and you'd be able to respond naturally should you be in need of a fake phone call. While I appreciate violetdusk calling and pretending to be my boyfriend when some creep at the coffee shop wouldn't leave me alone (<3 C ) it probably would have worked better if I wasn't hiding the fact that the person on the other end of the line was female. This service had some great potential!

I clicked over to Popularity Dialer and was greeted on the front page by this notice

November 28, 2007

Dear Friends,

Many of you have asked us about the "down for maintenance" banner we posted on the website on September 26th. The real issue, which we initially hoped to sort out quickly, is that the FCC (the Federal Communications Commission) served us with a citation stating that we violated section "227(b)(1)(A)" of the Communications of 1934 and section "64.1200(a)(1)" of the Commission's rules. Thus, we've taken the functionality of the site down until we hear back regarding our appeal.

The citation arose when a senior attorney for the FCC received an unrequested popularitydialer call on her cell phone and then filed a complaint. The main issue at hand is that people in the US pay for their incoming cell minutes so if they receive calls they don't request, they still have to pay for them. We've talked to a few lawyers who said the real issue is finding out what the FCC considers "express consent" regarding agreeing to incoming cell phones calls from a website.

Interestingly, there isn't much a precedent in this context because there are relatively few projects/companies that use web-to-phone as their method of execution. We do not verify phone numbers on our site before we make the call, but neither do the other venues that have similar services. When we initially contacted the FCC to see if we could work things out they sent the following:

"Mr. Forsyth,
I don't see how a website falls within the jurisdiction of the FCC or how it would cause TCPA violations. We would not give any advice on how to legally continue the operation of your business. That would have to come from your own attorney. "

Apparently, the FCC has no idea why our website should have resulted in the citation they handed us.

Also a weird twist, the phone call upon which the citation was based was requested from an FAA (Federal Aviation Administation) IP address. Thus, the call was both elected and received by employees of goverment agencies. It seems a little strange.

Why the FCC doesn't have better things to do with its time than shut down a student-founded project is beyond our understanding. In the meantime, standby and keep your fingers crossed.

We delivered our appeal to the FCC weeks ago. Hopefully, we'll get some news soon.

Thanks to the various members of the telephony community and the lawyers that have helped out with the appeal.

Love and Popularity,

Jenny and Cory

There was also a link to a scan of the citation seen below.

Really? It should have taken less than a minute for the lawyer to recognize the call was a recording and hang up. I will be happy to send this lady a dime if she will stop the nonsense. I feel this offer is quite generous as one minute costs less than ten cents on every contract plan I've ever seen and I seriously doubt this lady is rocking the pick up more minutes at 7-11 type of phone. There is no question that this an abuse of power. We all receive calls we don't want. Many of us sensibly avoid these calls by not answering when we don't know the number but everyone has at some point received a call from someone with the wrong number, giggling prepubescent girls who hang up, and/or teenage boys destined to spend many lonely nights on 4chan who think Arnold Schwarzenegger soundboards are funny. We don't then file complaints with the freaking Federal Communications Commission because someone dared to waste 30 seconds of our life. If you answer the phone you are consenting to the call. If you want to withdraw your consent you hang up. This really isn't that complicated.

Aside from the absoludicrousness (Thanks Mr. T) of the situation what caught my eye here was the FCC saying they didn't have jurisdiction over a website. There's a chance this will all blow over and the site will be fine. I was just saying a couple days ago that one of the reasons I oppose net neutrality is that the FCC is in favor of it and I don't want them anywhere near the internet. Can you imagine this case if they did have jurisdiction? An agency that can both regulate the internet and decide on punishment for infractions? There's no way it's worth the trade off.

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