51 Attorneys General, 12 Carriers Team Up to Fight Illegal Robocalls

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UPDATE A public/private coalition of 51 attorneys general and 12 wireless carriers on Thursday said they’ve agreed to adopt eight principles to fight illegal robocalls. The parties say the deal will require carriers to take steps toward blocking the calls and work with law enforcement to bring bad actors to justice.

“Illegal robocalls harass and harm people all across this country,” North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein said during a news conference.

 “By adopting these technological solutions and improving their cooperation with law enforcement, these phone companies are going to better serve their customers.”

The agreement between industry groups and the government took more than a year to hammer out, reported The Hill. The coalition of companies includes AT&T, Bandwidth, CenturyLink, Charter, Comcast, Consolidated, Frontier, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, Verizon, and Windstream. The carriers agreed to implement call-blocking technology at no extra cost to customers, and offer their customers a range of “easy-to-use call blocking and labeling tools.” The carriers will abide by a set of eight principles.  

The state-level efforts come as the federal government is also working toward the same goal. The FCC earlier this summer voted to allow phone carriers to block suspicious calls by default, Inside Towers reported. Many of the carriers involved in the new agreement had already promised to implement the call authentication technology.

In Congress, bills passed by the House and Senate would increase penalties for illegal robocallers and promote call authentication technology. Staffers are working over the August break trying to reconcile their two anti-robocall bills, H.R. 3375 and S. 151. Lawmakers are optimistic of an advancing deal and getting the reconciled version to the President’s desk for his signature this fall, according to Politico.

In response, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai praised the effort, noting that: “Few things can bring together policy leaders across the political spectrum like the fight against unwanted robocalls. I salute today’s bipartisan, nationwide effort to encourage best practices for combating robocalls and spoofing and am pleased that several voice service providers have agreed to abide by them.”

USTelecom, CTIA and NCTA have been working on an industry effort to fight robocalls and spoofed calls, Inside Towers reported. In a joint statement Thursday, they called illegal robocalls, a deliberate attempt by criminals to flood voice networks with unwanted calls that scam, spoof and prey upon vulnerable consumers who are justifiably fed up. We appreciate the efforts of the state attorneys general, the FCC, the FTC and other agencies to further collaboration that will hold the scammers behind these calls responsible for their actions.”

NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association CEO Shirley Bloomfield said NTCA member companies take robocalling concerns seriously. “NTCA is supportive of the concepts addressed by the Anti-Robocall Principles and we look forward to working with policy makers to overcome remaining implementation obstacles so that rural operators can participate in the effort to eradicate illegal and unwanted robocalling.”

August 23, 2019   

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