The FCC is embarking on a new crusade - against phone spam.

The independent US government agency voted yesterday to begin a proceeding and seek comments on protecting mobile phone customers from unwanted e-mail and text messages.

It will seek comments on how to best protect consumers and businesses from the costs and inconveniences of receiving unwanted commercial e-mail and text messages on wireless devices such as mobile phones.

The FCC's notice comes in response to the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003, which became law in January. It has asked for comments on several mobile spam issues, the results of which are likely to act as a template for governments across the world in dealing with the ever increasing problem of unsolicited electronic messages. They are:

  • Whether senders have the ability to determine if a message is going to a mobile device and methods to enable the sender to make this determination. For instance, the FCC could determine whether there should be a list of, or standard naming convention for, domain names, or an individual registry of e-mail addresses. The FCC is also looking for comments on automatic challenge-response mechanisms that alert senders that they are sending their message to mobile subscribers.
  • How to provide mobile subscribers with the ability to avoid receiving commercial messages sent without their prior consent and how to opt out of receiving future mobile service commercial messages from specific senders.
  • Whether commercial cellular providers should be exempt from having to obtain express prior authorisation before sending a commercial message to their customers.

The FCC proceeding will look for technical solutions to mobile phone spam, said FCC chairman Michael Powell. "Consumers have every right to expect that their cell phones will be spam-free zones," he said in a statement.