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Republicans Want 'Ringless Voicemail' to Fill Your Inbox with Ads

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May 24, 2017, 11:56 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   @zeman_e

The Republican National Committee hopes the FCC will approve a request from a marketing firm that would allow companies and organizations to silently send messages straight to consumers' cellphone voicemail inboxes. Such voicemails could be prerecorded political messages or even advertisements. The so-called "ringless voicemail" idea has been on the FCC's docket since March, when a marketing firm called All About the Message LLC asked the agency to approve its technology. All About the Message says its tech shouldn't be governed by robocalling regulations because it technically doesn't even qualify as phone calls. Moreover, the firm argues it won't interrupt consumers with automatic, robotic, dead-air phone calls at inconvenient times — behaviors that have helped define robocalls and the laws keeping them in check. The RNC supports All About Message's technology and suggested the FCC approve it lest political parties' First Amendment rights be trampled. "Political organizations like the RNC use all manner of communications to discuss political and governmental issues and to solicit donations — including direct-to-voicemail messages," said the RNC to the FCC in paperwork filed last week. "The Commission should tread carefully so as not to burden constitutionally protected political speech without a compelling interest." Consumer advocacy groups, including the National Consumer Law Center, say the change would amount to inbox pain for consumers. "I think it's unfortunate that there's a push by any political party to reduce the protections in [the robocall rules] for cellphones," said the NCLC's Margot Freeman Saunders in a statement provided to Recode. Saunders believes robocalls are one of many factors behind consumers' growing abandonment of landlines. Taking away the current rules could leave people "completely overwhelmed by messages" that cannot be prevented from filling their inboxes. The Democrats have not taken a side on the matter.



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