A good example of bipartisanship comes from the U.S. Senate and its treatment of the TRACED Act. The bill – which stands for “telephone robocall abuse criminal enforcement and deterrence” – flew through the Senate 97-1 in late May.
Any serious policy proposal that gets near-unanimous approval must be a pressing issue in America, and robocalls are a top-of-mind nuisance that’s plaguing most anyone who has a telephone.
The only person to vote against the TRACED Act was Sen. Paul Rand, R-Ky. It makes us wonder: Does Sen. Rand own a telephone? Because if he does, then he certainly should be in favor of this bill.
That lone dissenting vote notwithstanding, the TRACED Act sounds like good governance to us, and it’s our sincere hope the U.S. House feels the same way when it takes the bill up. If approved by the House, the bill will raise the fines that can be levied on robocallers by the Federal Communications Commission. It would increase the statute of limitations against robocall-related offenses and it would create a task force to address the issue.
And notably, it would force phone companies to deploy certain programs into their systems to help alleviate the problem.
The bill was introduced by Sens. Ed Markey, D-Mass., and John Thune, R-S.D.
Thune, in his weekly column distributed to the media, said the TRACED Act has three pillars: First, it lays groundwork to punish and deter pass robocallers; second, it increases the penalty (up to $10,000 per call) for breaking the law; and third, it goes after “spoofed” calls – those that come from what seems like a familiar number but instead is a scammer.
Of those pillars, we most appreciate instituting a credible threat of punishment for those who break this law. Potential time in jail, coupled with high monetary penalties, is the way to go.
And, as noted, it’s entirely bipartisan and has, at least in theory, universal support. As Thune notes in his column, “the bill is supported by all 50 state attorneys general, all current commissioners at the FCC and Federal Trade Commission, consumer and industry groups around the country including the AARP and nearly the entire U.S.”
Robocalls are a real problem. In 2018, an estimated 28 billion robocalls went out to mobile phones alone. Generally, the calls come from robocall centers that flout the law and constantly work to avoid detection – as proven by numbers coming from supposedly familiar area codes or even nearby cities.
The calls that tout some sort of vehicle warranty upgrade or insurance are annoying, but some go much further than that and seek to trick people out of their money or personal information.
Without some sort of intervention, this predatory practice will only continue.
Harsh penalties are one answer. Forcing phone companies to offer better blocking services is another.
Better yet: Do both.
The TRACED Act is a good step to end this scourge. We’re glad to see it cruise through the Senate.