What is the Industry Traceback Group?
Illegal robocalls are a plague on communities everywhere. These calls are frequently coupled with misleading or inaccurate telephone numbers displayed as caller ID information, an act known as spoofing, and are often intended to facilitate fraudulent or other harmful activities. The communications industry, in conjunction with federal and state law enforcement agencies, have deployed a multi-prong strategy to combat these illegal calls. An important tool is traceback.
USTelecom – The Broadband Association in 2015 established the Industry Traceback Group, or ITG, to conduct tracebacks on behalf of the communications industry. Each day, the ITG team works collaboratively with U.S. and foreign voice service providers to combat illegal calls by tracing them to their origin.
Today, leading voice service providers guide the ITG team as contributing members, but the ITG relies on the cooperation of hundreds more providers day-to-day in responding to traceback requests.
What is the TRACED Act, and how does it relate to the ITG?
To address the ongoing illegal robocall problem, Congress enacted the TRACED Act in December 2019. In the TRACED Act, Congress acknowledged the beneficial collaboration between law enforcement agencies and the private sector on traceback, and required the Federal Communications Commission to issue rules “for the registration of a single consortium that conducts private-led efforts to trace back the origin of suspected unlawful robocalls.”
In July 2020, the FCC first designated the ITG as the registered traceback consortium and has re-designated each year since. Voice service providers today are required by law to cooperate with traceback requests from the registered traceback consortium.
“This is a vote of confidence from the FCC and a recognition of the value and track record the ITG brings to the robocall wars.” said USTelecom President and CEO Jonathan Spalter. “No one else is doing this kind of work – tracking and tracing the scammers and spoofers polluting our communications networks to the source and getting them to shut off the flow of calls. And when that doesn’t work, federal and state enforcement agencies are happy to take a look at our findings.”
Is the ITG a law enforcement agency?
While the ITG works closely with law enforcement agencies, the ITG itself is not a law enforcement agency. Nor is it or any cooperating voice service provider—an agent of law enforcement. Per the TRACED Act, the entity designated as the official Traceback Consortium – as the ITG is currently designated – must explicitly be a private entity. The ITG does collaborate closely with federal and state law enforcement agencies, including but not limited to the Federal Communications Commission, Federal Trade Commission, U.S. Department of Justice, Social Security Administration, and states attorneys general offices in identifying voice service providers and their customers responsible for illegal robocalls.
What governs the ITG’s operations?
The ITG is governed by established Policies and Procedures. Adherence to the Policies and Procedures fosters cooperation by a broad range of supportive industry participants, including incumbent local exchange carriers, competitive local exchange carriers, wireless carriers, cable and VoIP providers, and wholesale providers, to enhance the trust of voice networks. The Policies and Procedures define the ITG’s structure, the traceback process, the sources for ITG traceback candidates, and how the ITG works with enforcement agencies, among other things.