Verizon Joins AT&T And Comcast In Curbing Robocalls, Offers Free Robocall Blocker App

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As more people expressed their concerns about the growing robocall problem that have become one of the most afflicting experience for American households, more and more telecom providers are standing up against robocalls and have vowed to help in the fight against the robocall epidemic.

Major telecom giants like AT&T and Comcast are coming together in a move that would impact robocalls in the country. Both companies, through a joint press release, announced a cross-network authentication system to verify calls between separate providers.

The press release called it a “milestone” and is expected to be rolled to most of AT&T and Comcast consumers later this year. This system is believed to be a nation’s first to allow a customer to see verified calls from all participating networks.

Earlier today, Verizon became the newest telecom company to have announced a new feature that will help in curbing robocalls in the U.S. While the company already offers a paid robocall blocking app for $2.99 a month, the telecom giant announced that it would roll out a free feature later this month.

It is expected that Verizon will soon release the instructions on how to download and use the free app by the end of this coming weeks.

Reportedly, the company will tap into an authentication technology called SHAKEN/STIR that will authenticate if the phone number on a user’s caller ID is the phone number that originated the call.

Similarly, in the joint press release by AT&T and Comcast, they will also be using the same technology in their own effort to fight robocallers.

According to the joint press release, a test was conducted between AT&T Phone digital home service and Comcast Xfinity Voice home phone service, used phones “on the companies’ consumer networks—not in a lab or [a] restricted to special equipment.” The test was said to have been conducted on March 5.

They employed the new “SHAKEN” (Signature-based Handling of Asserted information using toKENs) and “STIR” (Secure Telephone Identity Revisited) protocols meant to curb spoofed phone numbers.

“For example, a call that is illegally ‘spoofed’—or shows a faked number—will fail the SHAKEN/STIR Caller ID verification and will not be marked as verified,” the firms explained. “By contrast, verification will confirm that a call is really coming from the identified number or entity.”

The announcement of the release of the feature and the team up with Comcast followed the CEO’s famous on-stage stunt where he claimed that he is being robocalled last week during a forum interview at an economic club event in Washington, D.C. early this week.

The press release revealed that other major service providers would be conducting similar test runs with each other’s systems in order to verify if the SHAKEN/STIR implementations are compatible with their own systems. And sure enough, Verizon announced their own version of the technology earlier today.

According to the study conducted by Seattle-based caller profile firm Hiya, more than 26.3 billion automated messages were received in the US last year alone. The results revealed that the number increased by 46 percent from 2017’s total of 18 billion which averages out to 10 spam calls per person, per month.

“While authentication won’t solve the problem of unwanted robocalls by itself,” the firms admitted, “it is a key step toward giving customers greater confidence and control over the calls they receive.”
Amid an increasing pressure on the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) to resolve the problem, the agency seems unable to solve it – worse, it appears that they are even empowering robocalls with a new regulation that will even more loosely regulate organizations from using robocallers.

As pointed out by John Oliver in one of the episodes of Last Week Tonight where he robocalled the FCC to protest against robocalls, Ajit Pai, head of the FCC, might be against robocalls and has called it a problem and a ‘blight’ but is also objecting 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.

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