The FCC and Your Phone Service: What You Need to Know

According to their official mission statement, the Federal Communications Commission is the government agency which “regulates interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite, and cable in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories.”

The FCC, established in 1934, is subject to Congressional oversight and is “responsible for implementing and enforcing America’s communications law and regulations.”

What does the FCC actually do?

So that’s the official background of the agency; now, what is it that the FCC actually does—and how does it affect our phone service today? As you’ll see in this article, it is actually working behind the scenes of a number of different aspects of our daily communications.

The FCC is the governing body that primarily makes sure that U.S. communications, including phone service of all types, meet a specific set of standards as it applies to various interests such as regulation, policing, infrastructure, and accessibility.

What follows is a brief description of the FCC’s function in a few important components of our daily communications.

Regulating Service Providers

The FCC is essential to keeping phone service providers (and ISPs) in check because it works to ensure that providers do not take advantage of consumers and that they observe fair practices. Here are a couple of examples of what the FCC requires of phone service providers:

  • Truth in Billing—Providers must make the items on your phone bill “clear, factual, and plain,” showing on the bill exactly what each charge is for and specifying any and all due dates.
  • Communications Accessibility—Telecom services must be accessible to people with disabilities.
  • “Slamming” Protection—Your telephone company may not, under any circumstances, be switched without your permission; this is called slamming. The FCC’s Enforcement Bureau strictly prohibits this practice
  • Minimizing Unwanted Calls

    As this is one of the most common consumer complaints, finding effective ways to stop harassing telemarketing calls has been a top priority of the FCC. The fastest method of blocking unwanted marketing calls is to directly ask each telemarketer to place you on their “do-not-call list”, as well as interface with your service provider to inform them of the problem.

    If necessary, the FCC offers consumers the option to file phone numbers on the National Do Not Call Registry, which significantly limits telemarketing calls to your number. The FCC makes it illegal for telemarketers to place solicitation calls to anyone without their permission, and it is working with service providers to find new methods of stopping illegal telemarketing and robocalls.

    Caller ID Spoofing

    To “spoof” the caller ID of a phone number means to unlawfully make calls while masking the outgoing caller ID with someone else’s number.

    There is no reliable way to prevent it from happening, but you can handle it quickly and stop the spoofer by reporting it to your service provider, as well as the FCC, right away. If you gather as much information about the incident as you can and report it to the FCC’s consumer complaint department, they will investigate.

    Learn more about caller ID spoofing here:

    Phone Number Porting

    To “port” your phone number means to switch service providers and/or carriers, while keeping your existing number. The FCC has set forth rules and procedures for porting your phone number to a new provider, which lends some organization to the process but unfortunately can also make it complicated.

    That said, the FCC does mandate that a service provider has to allow subscribers to port their phone number to a new provider, and they cannot refuse to release the number.

    We have a variety of articles on all aspects of porting a phone number, which you can find here: Phone Number Porting

    The FCC definitely has its shortcomings, and in fact, the entire agency could use an overhaul. At the same time, it provides indispensable services for telecommunications as we know it today, generally keeping the whole industry honest. For more info about the FCC and how it operates, visit their website linked at the end of this post.


    Stephanie is the Marketing Director at Talkroute and has been featured in Forbes, Inc, and Entrepreneur as a leading authority on business and telecommunications.

    Stephanie is also the chief editor and contributing author for the Talkroute blog helping more than 100k entrepreneurs to start, run, and grow their businesses.

    StephanieThe FCC and Your Phone Service: What You Need to Know