The FCC is seeking to broaden the uptick of call blocking services, which customers must now engage in voluntarily, as well as empower providers to further develop the technology.
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.
The full commission will consider the measure on June 6.
Carriers have thus far rolled out incremental solutions like blocking tools which consumers can either download or pay for - but tools that usually put the onus on the consumer to implement them. "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 in the press release. Pai, however, wants the FCC to pave the way to allow for carriers to just go ahead and block these kinds of calls themselves, without waiting for or trying to get the consumer's permission. The bill would improve enforcement policies, criminalize illegal robocalling, and require phone companies to use a new technology that can validate that calls are originating where they claim to be coming from.
This proposal is also significant because, according to the agency, it marks the FCC's first step toward directly fighting scam robocalls that spoof legitimate numbers to try and trick consumers into answering the call.
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"We certainly are encouraging companies to offer this for free", FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said.
Call blocking should not in any way interfere with our country's emergency communications systems. But it would shield telecom providers from legal liability for blocking certain calls.
Voice service providers must provide sufficient information so that consumers can remain in the program or opt out. In addition, companies could allow users to block calls not on their contact lists, Pai said. "Consumer white lists could be based on the customer's own contact list, updated automatically as consumers add and remove contacts from their smartphones".
Meanwhile, Pai is also proposing a safe harbor for providers that implement network-wide blocking of calls that fail caller authentication under the SHAKEN/STIR framework once it is implemented.
The proposal is expected to lead to more widespread adoption of the Shaken/Stir authentication standard developed by the industry to stop the telemarketing calls. These steps would be a powerful incentive for voice service providers to adopt the SHAKEN/STIR standards.