FCC Wants Carriers To Block Robocalls By Default

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The scorching impact of robocalls in the United States is undeniably become one of the discussed topics not only among citizens but also in the board rooms of lawmakers and regulators. The increasing pressure from consumers to end the robocall epidemic has since forced regulating bodies to craft necessary resolutions to the problem.

Only recently, Federal Communication Commission chair, Ajit Pai, has proposed a bold action to help stop the growing number of robocalls that have plagued not unsuspecting victims by their annoying nuisance but some are swindling money from US citizens. Pai, who was previously criticized for his commission’s unsuccessful efforts to end the robocall problems, has circulated a declaratory ruling that, if adopted, would allow phone companies and telecommunication carriers to block unwanted phone calls by default. Also, companies could enable consumers to block calls, not on their contact list.

Furthermore, the Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking would propose a safe harbor for providers that implement network-wide blocking of calls that fail caller authentication under the SHAKEN/STIR framework once it is implemented.

“Allowing call blocking by default could be a big benefit for consumers who are sick and tired of robocalls. By making it clear that such call blocking is allowed, the FCC will give voice service providers the legal certainty they need to block unwanted calls from the outset so that consumers never have to get them,” said Chairman Pai.“And, if this decision is adopted, I strongly encourage carriers to begin providing these services by default—for free—to their current and future customers. I hope my colleagues will join me in supporting this latest attack on unwanted robocalls and spoofing.”

Unwanted calls, including illegal robocalls, are the top consumer complaint at the FCC, with more than 200,000 received annually. Some private analyses estimate that U.S. consumers received approximately 2.4 billion robocalls per month in 2016. Advancements in technology make it cheap and easy to make robocalls and to “spoof” Caller ID information to hide the caller’s true identity.

According to the press release issued by the FCC regarding the plan of Pai to implement this policy, one of the reasons why telecom providers are hesitant to employ some technology and features that would ban unwanted calls by default is the uncertainty that they might violate some rules set by the FCC. But the commission is set to change that by allowing carriers to employ necessary technology to ease the burden of consumers with regards to robocalls.

Aside from this, the FCC wrote, by allowing companies to block robocalls by default, carriers will be encouraged more to develop technology to make this happen and for others to already adopt existing ones.

“This blocking could be based on analytics and consumer “white lists.” Third-party developers currently use similar analytics to call blocking apps. Consumer white lists could be based on the customer’s contact list, updated automatically as consumers add and remove contacts from their smartphones,” the FCC said.

Moreover, the chairman of the FCC is also proposing to hold consultations with the public regarding how caller ID authentication standards, known as SHAKEN/STIR, can inform call blocking. In a statement, Ajit Pai demanded that carriers combat malicious call spoofing. “This system of signing calls as legitimate as they pass through the phone networks may well be useful for call blocking tools,” said FCC.

New rule follows 2017 regulation framework

According to the commission, this move is the first of many steps from the regulatory body to combat and fight illegitimate call spoofing. They said that the new rule follows the rules set by the FCC in 2017 that allows carriers to block calls coming from questionable sources.

Back in 2017, the FCC deregulates the ability of carriers to implement techniques to block unwanted and spoofed calls. The 2017 ruling allowed phone companies to proactively block calls that are likely to be fraudulent because they come from certain types of phone numbers.

“Among other things, our action here will allow carriers to block telephone calls that purport to originate from unassigned or invalid phone numbers. These calls are very likely to be illegal or fraudulent; there’s no legitimate reason for anyone to spoof caller ID to make it seem as if he or she is calling from an unassigned or invalid phone number. We also allow those who hold phone numbers that are not used to make outbound calls to request that carriers block any phone calls that purport to come from those numbers. Once again, any such calls are very likely to be illegal or fraudulent. And to address the rare instance when an error might be made, we encourage carriers to establish a transparent process for legitimate callers to challenge a blocked number and to resolve the challenge quickly,” said Ajit Pai in a statement back in 2017.

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