The fcc voted at its open meeting this week to adopt an anti-robocall measure, but it may or may not lead to a reduction in this maddening practice, and it may not be free either. That said, it is a start in tackling a problem that is far from simple and hugely irritating to consumers.
The past two years have seen the robocall problem grow and grow, and while there are steps you can take right now to make things better, they may not totally eliminate the problem or may not be available in your plan or company.
Under fire for failing to act fast enough in the face of a nationwide scam epidemic, the FCC has taken action as quickly as can be expected from a federal regulator, and there are two main parts to its plan to combat robocalls, one being they. which was approved today in the open session of the Commission.
The first issue was formally proposed last month by President Ajit Pai, and while it is little more than pushing carriers, it could be useful.
Operators have the ability to apply whatever tools they have to detect and block phone calls before they reach users’ phones. But it is possible, if not likely, that a user prefers not to have that service active. And carriers have complained that they fear that default call blocking may in fact be prohibited by existing FCC regulations.
The FCC has previously said that this is not the case and that operators should go ahead and opt everyone out of these blocking services (one can always opt out), but the operators have refused. The regulation passed today basically makes it clear that operators are authorized and, in fact, recommended that consumers opt for call blocking schemes.
That’s good, but to be clear, Wednesday’s resolution doesn’t demand carriers to do anything, nor does it prohibit carriers loading for such service, as indeed Sprint, AT&T and Verizon already do it in one way or another. (TechCrunch is owned by Verizon Media, but this does not affect our coverage.)
BREAKING: The @FCC votes to authorize call blocking to help stop #robocalls. That’s good news. Now for the bad news: You are refusing to stop new consumer charges and rates from blocking these horrible calls. That is not right. We must stop robocalls and do it for FREE. Https: //t.co/6bay6cnujN
– Jessica Rosenworcel (@JRosenworcel) June 6, 2019
Commissioner Starks noted in his approval statement that the FCC will monitor the implementation of this policy carefully for possible abuse by carriers.
At my request, the article. [i.e. his addition to the proposal] It will give us critical information about the performance of our tools. You will now study the availability of call blocking solutions; the fees charged, if any, for these services; the effectiveness of various categories of call blocking tools; and an assessment of the number of subscribers using available call blocking tools.
A second rule remains gestation, which exists at this point more or less only as a threat from the FCC in case the operators don’t up their game. The industry has created a kind of universal caller identification system called STIR / SHAKEN (Secure Telephony Identity Revised / Secure Handling of Secured Information using toKENs), but it has been slow to implement. Pai said late last year that if carriers didn’t implement it by the end of 2019, the FCC would be forced to take regulatory action.
Why the Commission did not just take regulatory action in the first place is a valid question, and one that some Commissioners and others have asked. Be that as it may, the threat is there and it appears to have spurred the carriers to action. Tests have been carried out, but so far no operator has implemented a STIR / SHAKEN-based anti-theft system.
Pai has said with respect to these systems that “we [i.e. the FCC] do not anticipate that the costs will be passed on to the consumer, “and it seems unlikely that your operator will opt you for a call blocking scheme that costs you money. But never underestimate the infidelity and greed of a telecommunications company. I would not be surprised if new subscribers will add this as a line item or something like that; watch your accounts carefully.