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Bilirakis Questions FCC Chairman on Robocalls, Assistive Technology, and the Tampa Field Office Closing

July 25, 2017
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – During a Communications and Technology Subcommittee Hearing, U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis (FL-12) questioned Federal Communications Committee (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai on telecommunication issues important to Tampa Bay.

Please see below for excerpts from today’s hearing, and click here to learn more.

On the FCC’s decision to close its Tampa field office, which could impact the agency’s ability to respond to radio frequency interference issues on emergency channels:  

Bilirakis: “In light of these closures, what actions has the FCC taken to ensure that interference complaints continue to be addressed?”

Pai: “It’s no secret that I had substantial disagreements with the original reorganization plan that was proposed because it would’ve impacted the field, including places like Tampa. Going forward, we have tried to the best of our ability to use those resources in the field offices to aggressively attack issues, like pirate radio, that are a problem all across the eastern seaboard … We want to make sure we take every step we can to put pirates on notice that both the staff at the FCC headquarters, and the field office enforcement staff, are cops on the beat to guard against that problem.”

On the FCC’s efforts to prevent unwanted robocalls to innocent consumers:

Bilirakis: “I think we all agree that robocalls are a substantial consumer protection problem. As a matter of fact, I hear about it all the time from constituents and even family members. Can you tell us more about the FCC’s robocall enforcement efforts? And what makes it so difficult to identify bad actors?”

Pai: “This is the number one consumer protection issue, judging from the complaints that we get from consumers across the country. We took that to heart. Out of the box, in the first six months, we have already proposed the largest fine proposed by the FCC to go after a robocaller in Florida who imposed 100 million robocalls in just three months on American consumers. That’s a $120 million proposed fine … Going forward, we have encouraged what’s called a Call Authentication Anchor. This would enable you to know, if you see a number on your phone, you can be assured that it is from the person assigned that telephone number.”   

On ensuring the timely implementation of assistive technologies for blind and visually impaired Americans:

Bilirakis: “Ensuring that our elderly and disabled populations retain full access to technology is very important to me. Just this month, the FCC adopted rules to provide more video-described programming to blind and visually impaired Americans. Can you describe what this will do for our visually impaired population and explain the timeline for implementation of the new standard?”

Pai: “Working together, we advanced more video description capability, that is somebody narrating, essentially, the critical elements of a movie or film. This is something Congress gave us the ability to do in order to give those with disabilities the maximum chance to participate.”