Published: Thu, May 16, 2019
Tech | By

FCC Chairman Pai proposes blocking robocalls by default

FCC Chairman Pai proposes blocking robocalls by default

Allowing the default call-blocking could significantly increase development and consumer adoption of the tools, Pai said, adding that providers should offer call blocking services for free.

U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai on Wednesday proposed allowing phone companies to block unwanted "robocalls" by default in a bid to reduce the flood of nuisance calls from telemarketers and scammers.

"Many voice providers have held off developing and deploying call blocking tools by default because of uncertainty about whether these tools are legal under the FCC's rules".

Wireless carriers have been challenged in combating robocalls and call spoofing practices, which have grown enormously over the last few years.

Pai's proposal includes a safe harbor for phone companies that take the necessary system-wide steps to block any phone call that fails the caller authentication test as laid out in the FCC's SHAKEN/STIR framework once that proposition is invoked. According to YouMail, a company that blocks and tracks robocalls, there were almost 48 billion unwanted calls in the U.S. in 2018 and an estimated 4.9 billion last month alone. "And we believe that we need to make it easier for phone companies to block these robocalls".

New measures by US regulators could help thwart some of the billions of robocalls received in the U.S. Pai's goal is to get the proposal granted and passed at the FCC's Open Commission meeting on June 6.

The new action follows criticism that Pai isn't doing enough to stop robocalls. So even if the FCC's new measures pass, carriers could undermine them by charging consumers.


There are also bills in Congress addressing the robocall problem. A January report from Hiya, a caller ID service, said there were 26.3 billion robocalls made in the USA in 2018. Carriers would also have flexibility in how they dispose of spam calls, such as sending the calls straight to voicemail, alerting the customer of the robocalls, or blocking the calls altogether.

The number of unwanted robocalls skyrocketed 46% from 2017 to 2018.

There's little time for the phone companies to get up to speed on the proposal. The number breaks down to an average of 10 monthly calls per person.

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

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

"Allowing call blocking by default could be a big benefit for consumers who are sick and exhausted of robocalls", said Chairman Pai in a news release on the matter.

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