One key takeaway from the talk given by AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson at an economic Club event in Washington, D.C. yesterday, is that he, too, is affected by the ongoing robocall epidemic.
A stunt he pulled in the middle of his talk where Stephenson received a call in the middle of his interview, shows that even millionaires are not exempted from the wrath of robocalls and it is a problem that everyone – especially the FCC – should be concerned about.
While Stephenson is answering questions from the audience and some reporters, his Apple Watch rang. “I’m getting a robocall too,” he said after he declined the call from his Apple Watch. “It’s literally a robocall.”
As the Chief Executive Officer of one of America’s biggest telecommunication companies, Stephenson is one of the people that have the power to put an end to the problem that has terrorized majority of the American household. While his on-stage act exposes the extent of the problem, many people questioned why Stephenson did not take the opportunity to promise users any remedies to the problem from AT&T.
Data from the Federal Trade Commission earlier this year revealed that Americans were hit with 26.3 billion spam calls throughout 2018. That’s up 46 percent compared to 2017, and signals just how fast the rate of spam calls is growing.
Undeniably, robocalls are spamming every household in America, from businesses offering a new product, to credit institutions selling credit cards, to politicians campaigning for office. Unfortunately, amidst an increasing pressure on the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) to resolve the problem, the agency seems unable to – worse, it appears that they are even empowering robocalls with a new regulation that will even more loosely regulate organizations from using robocallers.
At face value, Ajit Pai, head of the FCC, is against robocalls and has called it a problem and a ‘blight.’ However, Pai opposed to all regulations that would have been instrumental in curtailing robocallers’ freedom to terrorize American households and was very happy when the rules that are already in place against it was overturned. Pai has succumbed to the pressure of telemarketers and bankers to redefine and narrow down what constitutes an auto-dial. This means that a lot of robocalls may not be considered robocalls anymore regardless of how annoying they still are.
Earlier this month, comedian John Oliver slammed the FCC for their inability to control the robocall pandemic. He said that the FCC could do a lot of things to resolve the problem, but the agency is turning a blind eye on the very problem that affects every – apparently, even the CEO of AT&T.
As part of his show Last Week Tonight, Oliver set up a robocalling system to troll the FCC and show them how huge of a problem robocalls are for ordinary Americans. “Yes, FCC, we meet again old friend,” Oliver said as he addressed the commission he trolled before. He urged viewers and fans to call and protest to the plan of FCC to dump net neutrality. His call to action in 2014 has caused a massive crash in FCC’s comments system.
“This time, unlike our past encounters, I don’t actually need to ask hordes of real people to bombard you with messages,” Oliver announced happily. “Because, with the miracle of robocalling, I can now do it all by myself!”
According to Oliver, it is straightforward to set up the show’s robocalling system. It only took their technicians to set the whole things up in 15 minutes before he pressed the big red button to set the robocall trolling to the FCC in action.
Robocalls are a pressing and dynamic problem for consumers with the efforts of telecom companies at subsiding the issue proving ineffective. AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile have all attempted to offer some sort of spam filter for incoming calls, but with little success. Some have also called on Apple to do more for muting and detecting spam callers. However, without clear regulations from authorities like the Federal Communication Commission, telecom providers and manufacturers can do as much. The lack of institutionalized control paves the way to companies abusing a technology that is meant to make people’s lives easier but ends up being a potent tool to make it feel like hell.