US Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai will proposed giving mobile phone companies more power to block unwanted robocalls, according to a release from the FCC on Wednesday. Pai’s proposal, if adopted, would allow phone companies to block unwanted calls for customers by default. Companies would also allow consumers to block to calls from unknown numbers themselves. According to the release, customers can opt-in or out of any blocking services they don’t want.
“Allowing call blocking by default could be a big benefit for consumers who are sick and tired of robocalls. 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,” Pai said in the release.
Pai also proposed seeking public comment on how caller ID authentication standards, otherwise known as SHAKEN/STIR, could inform call blocking. The SHAKEN/STIR framework would validate where calls originate from, where they claim to be coming from, and would allow for faster tracing of illegal calls to find out who’s responsible for them.
Later today, Pai and four other FCC commissioners are set to testify before a US House panel over the growing number of robocalls. At a June 6 meeting, the US telecommunications regulator is expected to take action on Pai’s proposal.
Congress expressed frustration against illegal robocalls in April and reintroduced bipartisan legislation called the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Defense Act (aka the TRACED Act). 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 from where they claim to be coming from. In addition, the protocol would allow for faster tracing of illegal robocalls.
The number of unwanted robocalls skyrocketed 46% from 2017 to 2018. A January report from Hiya, a caller ID service, said there were 26.3 billion robocalls made in the US in 2018. The number breaks down to an average of 10 monthly calls per person.
Originally published May 15 at 5:36 a.m. PT.
Update, at 6:01 a.m. PT: Adds info from FCC release. 6:29 a.m. PT: Adds background on SHAKEN/STIR.