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FCC to propose rules blocking robocalls

18 May 2019

While the FCC previously mandated adoption of the technology, under the proposal companies would be given the leeway to experiment with how it can be used to block unwanted calls.

Later Wednesday, Pai and four other FCC commissioners are set to testify before a US House of Representatives panel over the growing number of robocalls. Companies would also allow consumers to block calls from unknown numbers themselves.

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.

AT&T Inc said Pai's proposal "will increase the arsenal of tools available to combat calls that are not authenticated" but warned that "scammers continue to find new ways to reach unsuspecting consumers".

"Allowing call blocking by default could be a big benefit for consumers who are sick and exhausted of robocalls", Pai said in a statement.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai put forward a proposal that would make it legal for phone companies to block unwanted robocalls by default.

The FCC will consider the proposal at its June 6 meeting.

Congress expressed frustration with illegal robocalls in April and reintroduced bipartisan legislation called the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Defense Act (aka the Traced Act). The FCC is pushing for phone companies to use an authentication framework for blocking unwanted calls that is dubbed "SHAKEN/STIR".

Pai said this week he expects major phone providers to implement those caller ID standards this year and will host a summit on July 11 to review the industry's progress. He raised the threat of regulatory action "if the companies do not take the steps necessary to protect consumers". Carriers like Verizon have anti-robocall tools for subscribers, but they're usually optional and need to be turned on. Indeed, the number of such unwanted calls soared from 29 billion in 2016 to nearly 48 billion past year, according to an estimate by YouMail Inc. that's also been cited by the Federal Communications Commission.

What's more, as people in the USA get a barrage of spam calls, many are increasingly choosing not to answer the phone at all.

People received about 60 incoming calls from 'unrecognized numbers or numbers not linked to a person in their contact list'.

Several existing applications also require a fee, but Pai says costs would be reduced under the new system because its more expensive to handle the ongoing flood of robocalls.

Robocalls have become so common that a 2018 report predicted nearly 50 percent of all mobile calls will be scam calls this year.

FCC to propose rules blocking robocalls