John Raoux / AP
If the new government plan works, the number of stolen calls you receive may decrease in the near future.
The Federal Communications Commission proposes to encourage telephone companies to "block unwanted calls to their customers by default."
If enacted, the proposal would not compel telephone companies to impose predetermined call blocks. But it would protect telecommunications providers from legal liability by blocking certain calls.
"The American people are fed up with illegal calls, it's the biggest complaint we get from consumers every year," FCC president Ajit Pai told reporters. "And we believe we should make it easier for phone companies to block these phone calls."
This would be a major change from now on, when customers should normally opt for blocking unwanted calls. According to the proposal, "operators would simply have to allow consumers who do not want that type of service to unsubscribe," Pai said.
He said it would be comparable to the way email providers filter messages in junk mail folders. The FCC is pushing for phone companies to use an authentication framework to block unwanted calls called "SHAKEN / STIR". It's a way that phone companies can verify that a call really comes from a caller ID that it says it is.
The call blocking company YouMail issues estimates of automatic telephone calls across the country each month. It is estimated that there were 4.9 billion calls made in April 2019, a rate of 14.9 calls per person.
"Our belief now is that more than half of the robocalls out there are scams," Alex Quilici, a robocall expert and YouMail CEO, told NPR. A growing problem is that the calls are "falsified", which means that they disguise their identity in the caller ID.
USTelecom, a commercial group that represents telecommunications providers, applauded the FCC's proposal.
"The criminals who are swindling consumers with this flood of illegal calls must be confronted by the industry and the government," group president and CEO Jonathan Spalter said in a statement. "This is a big and bold proposal from the FCC that can reinforce the state-of-the-art authentication and call blocking efforts of our industry and do something important: prevent unwanted calls from reaching consumers in the first place."
The FCC has previously encouraged companies to take stronger action against fraudulent calling scams.
But it can be a challenge for companies to discover which phone calls are really scams and which contain information that a consumer would want to obtain, such as automatic calls about school closings.
And according to Quilici, one of the challenges to curbing relentless calls is that companies have been reluctant to take legal responsibility for blocking calls that customers want.
"What we found is that there are a number of things that people feel comfortable having blocked," he told NPR.
Quilici said it is safe to assume that everyone would want to block fraudulent calls. But other types are less clear. For example, some people want to receive reminders of automatic payments from credit card companies, while others prefer to block such calls.
And then there are extreme examples, he added, that could have made providers reluctant to take radical measures in the past that could expose them to legal liability: "It's the fear of blocking a number and it's the grandmother calling and having an attack to the heart. . "
"It is very important that the proposal makes it clear that emergency calls and other vital calls are not blocked and that operators provide consumers with extensive information about these services and methods," Pai told reporters.
The FCC has not yet published the specifics of its proposal, in particular, what kind of guidelines the agency will provide the companies to determine if a call is "wanted" or "unwanted."
Will Wiquist, a spokesman for the FCC, said that call blocking programs "will be based on reasonable analysis, such as current call blocking applications." He said that the analytics aim to stop the scams and look for patterns such as "floods of calls on the network or numerous calls of short duration." Wiquist added that the proposal would allow flexibility on what to block, or that customers opt out completely.
The FCC proposal would also allow providers to offer customers an even more aggressive form of blocking than the default option. If approved, customers could opt for a filtering system that would only allow calls through numbers in their contacts, nicknamed a "whitelist".
"The number of
#robocalls What we have is madness. For too long the @FCC He has wasted time organizing workshops and summits instead of holding the bad actors accountable, "said the FCC Commissioner. Jessica Rosenworcel, who is a democrat.
"Today, finally, he proposes new policies to help block phone calls, and sincerely, I hope it's not too little, too late."
The FCC will consider the proposal at a meeting on June 6. Pai, a Republican, says he hopes it will give consumers the "peace of mind they deserve."