FCC Strike Force Aims to End Robocalls

FCC Strike Force Aims to End Robocalls

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At the behest of Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler, a cadre of telecom executives have convened to form a Robocall Strike Force. Helmed by AT&T’s Chairman & CEO Randall Stephenson, the force includes 33 companies from across the communications ecosystem.

“The fact that we are all here speaks to the breadth and complexity of the robocall problem,” Stephenson said during the first strike force meeting at which Wheeler was an attendee. FCC Commissioners Ajit Pai and Mignon Clyburn were also in attendance at the meeting.

“This is going to require more than individual company initiatives and one-off blocking apps,” Stephenson said.  “Robocallers are a formidable adversary, notoriously hard to stop.  And technology such as spoofing makes it easier for them to work around our various fixes and hide their tracks.”

Noting the piecemeal approach many of the companies have taken to address robocalls in the past, to no avail, Stephenson said “this strike force will need to take a different approach. If we truly want to deal with this, the entire ecosystem has to work together – carriers, device makers, OS developers, network designers.  And don’t forget, regulators and lawmakers have a role to play.  We have to come out of this with a comprehensive play book for all of us to go execute.”

Unwanted robocalls can range from perfectly legal telemarketers or public opinion surveyors to illegal calls violating the national Do Not Call List protocols or ones seeking to engage in identity theft.

To confront these challenges, Chairman Wheeler has asked the strike force to address five primary areas:

  • Conform to VOIP caller ID verification standards as soon as they are made available by the standards setting groups.

  • Adopt, if viable, SS7 solutions associated with VOIP calls.

  • Work together with the industry, including every company in this room, along with the standards setting bodies, to evaluate the feasibility of a “Do Not Originate” list.

  • Further develop and implement solutions to detect, assess and stop unwanted calls from reaching customers.

  • And finally, facilitate efforts by other carriers to adopt call-blocking technologies on their networks.

The strike force will continue its work to support these goals over the next several weeks, with a report due back to the FCC by October 19, 2016.  In addition to offering concrete solutions and new technological innovations for dealing with robocalls, the report will also set forth recommendations for the ways government can help end this problem.

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