FCC set to let phone companies block more robocalls


The FCC is not requiring that the call-blocking service be free, but it's expected that it won't cost consumers extra.

On Wednesday, Pai issued a declaratory ruling that, if adopted, would allow phone companies to block unwanted robo- and spoofing calls to their customers automatically, not to mention giving the consumer the option to automatically block any phone number that's not in their personal contact list.

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.

"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", Pai said. That's when the government gave carriers explicit, although narrow, permission to block certain types of calls. Carriers would be able to do this by default, so users wouldn't have to opt in to call-blocking programs.

This year, between 60 and 75 billion robocalls are expected to be made, up from almost 48 billion last year. The industry is working on deploying this long-in-the-works system, called "STIR/SHAKEN", but it's been a slow process. Companies would also allow consumers to block calls from unknown numbers themselves.

The Federal Communications Commission has been fighting robocalls for years, but it hasn't made much headway.

"Today it finally proposes new policies to help block robocalls". The FCC is pushing for phone companies to use an authentication framework for blocking unwanted calls that is dubbed "SHAKEN/STIR".

Pai and the other four FCC commissioners testified on Wednesday before a U.S. House panel amid frustration in Congress and among U.S. consumers over the flood of robocalls. 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. Verizon's anti-robocall tool is free, but Sprint's Premium Caller ID tool is not. He raised the threat of regulatory action if the carriers don't take steps, saying that the agency will "stand ready to take action if the companies do not take the steps necessary to protect consumers".

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

The number of unwanted robocalls skyrocketed 46% from 2017 to 2018. The number breaks down to an average of 10 monthly calls per person.

Of the spam calls received, majority were 'general spam, ' followed by fraud, telemarketers and robocallers.

There's little time for the phone companies to get up to speed on the proposal.