House committee approves caller ID 'spoofing' bill, spectrum measures

The House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday advanced a bill that would penalize advertisers that mislead consumers using their caller ID systems.

The legislation cracks down on the practice known as "spoofing" -- a technique that allows businesses to falsify their caller ID data in the hope that unsuspecting customers will answer their phones.

Ultimately, the bill heading to the House floor tasks the Federal Communications Commission with the responsibility of handling subsequent caller complaints and drafting rules related to possible punishments.

"This legislation recognizes that there are legitimate business services that change caller ID information and directs the FCC to implement rules in a fashion that allows such services to continue, while making fraudulent and deceptive caller ID manipulation unlawful," Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) said in his opening remarks Wednesday.

While the bill's legislative prospects remain unclear, it already has support of a number of lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle -- including Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), who praised it Wednesday for taking into account that some law enforcement agents have to "spoof" their caller ID data to handle investigations.

"Today’s bills, however, are the products of cooperation among members with the advice and expertise of stakeholders," Barton said. "I want to thank everyone who has been involved in this process, particularly those in the defense and intelligence community who have helped us understand the public safety and national security concerns surrounding spectrum use."

"I believe we’ve addressed these concerns appropriately, and I look forward to working with all those involved to ensure we don’t do anything to hinder the mission of those who protect our country," he added.

Additionally, committee members approved two other measures on Wednesday, both related to the use and sale of wireless spectrum.

The first bill would require the FCC to take stock of public and private radio spectrum in order to better determine how to use it. The second effort would adjust the process by which federal officials cease using spectrum that the FCC has auctioned off or reallocated.