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May 30, 2019

Taking a Bite Out of Unwanted Robocalls .

Taking a Bite Out of Unwanted Robocalls

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Kelly Cole & Matthew Gerst
Senior Vice President, Government Affairs, & Vice President, Regulatory Affairs

We know you get a lot of robocalls. We do too. Some robocalls are useful—like the ones you receive from pharmacies, airlines and schools—but many are illegal, intrusive and annoying.

While there is no silver bullet for solving the issue of illegal robocalls, like McGruff the Crime Dog would say, “we all have a role to play” in blocking unwanted calls and the wireless industry is hard at work designing tools to help you do just that.

In addition to blocking obviously fake calls and those already determined to be illegal, the wireless industry offers many tools and downloadable apps for you to use to block or label unwanted robocalls as spam.

The next step in our fight to combat unwanted and illegal robocalls is the creation of a digital fingerprint that will help providers authenticate valid phone calls. This system, referred to as SHAKEN/STIR, is set to be implemented by nationwide providers by the end of 2019.

Two actions—by Congressional leadership and the FCC—are key next steps to enhance government and industry’s collaborative efforts to combat unwanted robocalls.

Congressional Authority to Deter Bad Actors.

Last week, with an overwhelmingly bipartisan 97-1 vote, the Senate passed the TRACED Act—a huge step forward in the battle against robocalls.

Introduced by Senators Thune (R-SD) and Markey (D-MA), the TRACED Act:

  • Enables the FCC to ensure implementation of a digital fingerprint framework for calls, such as SHAKEN/STIR, and gives wireless providers more tools to block unauthenticated calls
  • Empowers the FCC with more enforcement tools to stop illegal robocalls at the source
  • Encourages a “whole of government” approach to combatting illegal and unwanted robocalls at the federal and state levels

With these provisions, the TRACED Act removes barriers that have prevented the FCC from taking more significant enforcement actions against bad actors and further encourages voice service providers to be more proactive in blocking calls that cannot be authenticated.

Now it’s time for lawmakers in the House to move quickly and pass legislation, like the TRACED Act, to provide the FCC and the wireless industry with more tools to protect American consumers against unwanted calls.

FCC Incentivizing Aggressive Actions to Protect Consumers from Unwanted Robocalls.

Next Thursday, the FCC is set to vote on a rule that would give wireless and other voice providers more authority to block unwanted robocalls.

Today, the wireless industry’s wide variety of consumer-facing call labeling and blocking tools are largely available on an opt-in basis to consumers. Now, the FCC is proposing an important, pro-consumer clarification that will make it easier for wireless providers to automatically opt everyone in by default. This means that more consumers will automatically benefit from these tools, with the option to opt-out.

The FCC’s approach makes a lot of sense and we’re working closely with them to help clarify it further. In particular, we’re encouraging them to define the types of call-blocking capabilities covered and the scope of emergency calls which should not be blocked to make sure the guidelines are clear. We’re also suggesting the FCC establish a safe harbor that allows providers to use more tools to stem the robocall trend. These clarifications will help providers take a bite out of the scourge of unwanted calls.

Combatting illegal robocalls will continue to require a full scale collaborative effort between international, federal and state governments and the wireless industry. CTIA and its member companies are proud to partner with policymakers to lead these efforts to stop bad actors and empower our customers.

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