Published: Sat, May 18, 2019
Electronics | By Kelly Massey

FCC proposes new tools to arm phone companies against robocalls

FCC proposes new tools to arm phone companies against robocalls

Carriers would be able to do this by default, so users wouldn't have to opt in to call-blocking programs.

The FCC claims wireless carriers have not pursued tools that allow calls to be blocked by default because of legal uncertainty about such tools under the FCC's rules.

"Through the proposed declaratory ruling, phone companies will be permitted to detect and analyze robocalls and block them from bombarding consumers' phones-similar to the way email providers block spam", the FCC said. The FCC said the proposal would be considered at the agency's next meeting on June 6.

Pai and the other four FCC commissioners testified on Wednesday before a U.S. House panel amid frustration in Congress and among U.S. consumers over the flood of robocalls. The industry is working on deploying this long-in-the-works system, called "STIR/SHAKEN", but it's been a slow process.

Currently, consumers often must elect to use carriers' robocall-blocking tools, some of them costing a monthly fee, which means "fewer people are using these services", Pai said.

The agency also said Wednesday it's making clear that carriers can let customers come up with lists of numbers that they will permit to call them.

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YouMail, a company that blocks robocalls and tracks them, estimated there were 4.9 billion unwanted us calls last month after almost 48 billion in 2018, which was up almost 60 percent over 2017. "We need real solutions to address this problem, and real protections for the American people".

Pai has also been urging phone carriers to adopt an authentication system, dubbed SHAKEN/STIR, which can differentiate between legit phone calls and spoofed ones. He raised the threat of regulatory action "if the companies do not take the steps necessary to protect consumers".

In November, Pai wrote to the chief executives of major telephone service providers including AT&T Inc, Verizon Communications Inc, Sprint Corp and other companies, demanding they launch the system no later than 2019 to combat robocalls.

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democrat, said this week the FCC should require call authentication technology and make available free tools to consumers to block the calls.

Robocall-tracking company YouMail estimates there were 48 billion unwanted calls in the 2018, up 60% from 2017.

Many robocalls are not scam calls, though, but calls from debt collectors and telemarketers selling insurance, cruises and the like.

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