FCC set to let phone companies block more robocalls

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai on Wednesday proposed allowing the phone companies to block unwanted “robocalls” are standard in an attempt to reduce the flood of nuisance calls from telemarketers and scammers.

FILE PHOTO: Chairman Ajit Pai speaks before the vote on the repeal of the so-called net neutrality rules of the Federal Communications Commission in Washington, USA, December 14, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

Pai said a lot of service providers have taken to develop and implement standard call-blocking tools, because of uncertainty about whether the instruments are legally in the framework of the FCC rules.

Allow the default call barring can significantly increase development and consumer adoption of the tools, Pai said, adding that the providers should offer call blocking services free of charge. In addition, could the companies that allows users to block calls not on their list of contacts, Pai said.

“By making it clear that such a blocking call is allowed, the FCC gives voice to service providers the legal certainty they need for the blocking of unwanted calls from the beginning so that consumers never have to get them,” Pai said.

The U.S. telecommunications regulator is expected to approve Pai’s proposal in the June 6 meeting.

Pai and the other four FCC commissioners testified on Wednesday before a U.S. House panel in the middle of frustration in Congress and among consumers in the united states about the flood of robocalls.

YouMail, a company that blocks robocalls and encourage them, estimated that there were 4.9 billion unwanted AMERICAN calls last month after nearly 48 billion in 2018, which is almost 60% in 2017.

Not all automated calls are illegal. Some are from school districts, utilities, pharmacies, or cities.

Carriers expressed support for Pai’s proposal.

Verizon Communications Inc. praised the FCC for “aggressive action, and the exploration of new tools to protect the consumer.”

“While there may be no silver bullet that can completely end these activities, we are fully committed to fighting robocalls,” he said in a statement.

AT&T Inc said Pai’s proposal “will increase the arsenal of instruments available for the control of calls that are not authenticated”, but warned that “scammers continue to find new ways to reach unsuspecting consumers.”

In May 2018, Pai called on companies to adopt an industry-developed “call-verification system,” aimed at ending the use of illegal counterfeit numbers of the telephone system.

Pai said this week that he expects major phone providers to the implementation of that caller-ID standards this year and will host a summit on 11 July review of the industry of the progress.

“We have chosen this industry-led path, because it is the fastest way to help consumers, but I remain committed to taking the regulation,” if carriers are not in action this year, Pai said in a statement on Monday.

In November, Pai wrote to the chief executive officers of the major carriers demanding they launch the system by 2019 at the latest, to combat robocalls.

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democrat, said this week the FCC should call authentication technology and make it available free tools to consumers to block calls. The FCC, she added, is a waste of time holding conferences and workshops “instead of holding the bad actors accountable.”

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman, Jeffrey Benkoe and Richard Chang

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