FCC proposes new rules to allow carriers to block robocalls 'by default'

FCC's Ajit Pai wants to give phone companies more power to block robocalls

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 unwanted calls. But it would shield telecom providers from legal liability for blocking certain calls.

Along with analytics, companies could also allow customers to submit a so-called "white list" of allowable numbers, which would rely on existing contacts. Under the rules, consumers would be able to opt-out of the service if they wished, and carriers must clearly disclose to customers what types of calls may be blocked. "We believe we need to make it easier for phone companies to block these robocalls".

Service providers have historically been reluctant to develop and deploy call block tools by default due to uncertainty regarding their legality under the FCC's rules.

Reuters reports the usa telecommunications regulator is expected to approve Pai's proposal at its June 6 meeting.

Pai has also been urging phone carriers to adopt an authentication system, dubbed SHAKEN/STIR, which can differentiate between legit phone calls and spoofed ones. The volume of calls has risen to roughly 5 billion per month, according to call-blocker YouMail, from 2.7 billion in November 2017. One proposal in the Senate would grant the government more power to pursue robocall fraudsters, while another set of proposals in the House would take additional aim at legitimate businesses, such as debt collectors, that ring smartphone owners excessively. Carriers would also have flexibility in how they dispose of spam calls, such as sending the calls straight to voicemail, alerting the customer of the robocalls, or blocking the calls altogether. It estimates there were 4.9 billion calls placed in April 2019 - a rate of 14.9 calls per person. If it's suspicious, the carrier can block the call from going through. For example, some people want to receive automated payment reminders from credit card companies, whereas others might prefer to block such calls. "For too long the @FCC has wasted time holding workshops and summits instead of holding bad actors responsible", said FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, who is a Democrat. 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. "I sincerely hope this is not too little, too late".