FCC Chairman Proposes Call Blocking By Default to Combat Robocalls

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FCC Chairman Ajit Pai Wednesday circulated a declaratory ruling that, if adopted, would allow phone companies to block unwanted calls to their customers by default. An accompanying draft Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking would propose a safe harbor for carriers that implement network-wide call blocking that fail caller authentication under the SHAKEN/STIR framework, once implemented.

Many carriers have held off developing these kinds of tools because they’re not sure they’re legal under the agency’s rules, according to the agency. 

“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,” said Pai. “And, if this decision is adopted, I strongly encourage carriers to begin providing these services by default, for free, to their current and future customers.”

The action would be the first by the Commission to directly combat scam robocalls that spoof legitimate, in-service numbers. These measures will be considered by the full Commission at its June 6 monthly meeting.

Pai also proposed seeking public comment on how caller ID authentication standards, known as SHAKEN/STIR, can inform call blocking. The Chairman has demanded that carriers adopt these standards to combat malicious spoofing. With the expectation that such standards will be available later this year, Pai is proposing in a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to create a safe harbor for calls that are blocked because they are not authenticated under the SHAKEN/STIR framework.

“The criminals that are scamming consumers with this flood of illegal robocalls must be confronted by industry and government head-on,” said USTelecom President/CEO Jonathan Spalter. “This is a big and bold proposal by the FCC that can bolster our industry’s cutting-edge call blocking and authentication efforts and do something important: stop unwanted calls from reaching consumers in the first place.”

NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association, praised the move. “NTCA’s hometown operators have close connections to the communities they serve, and they are eager to be part of the solution for robocalling problems in light of significant customer frustration,” said CEO Shirley Bloomfield. “As the FCC considers how best to solve these concerns, it will be important to consider and overcome any barriers that could hinder smaller rural providers’ full participation in these efforts.”

Wireless Internet Service Providers Association President/CEO Claude Aiken, tweeted:  “Thank you @AjitPaiFCC! Repurposing 5.9 for unlicensed use could be a shot in the arm for both #ruralbroadband and #WiFi. @WISPAnews stands ready to assist.”

May 17, 2019

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