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Verizon encouraged by new FCC initiatives to fight robocalls

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Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai has unveiled plans for a new initiative to help consumers block robocalls.

Welcoming the announcement by FCC, Will Johnson, Verizon senior vice president of federal regulatory and legal affairs, explained, “Verizon welcomes today’s announcement and the related work that the FCC and the industry have been doing to protect consumers from unwanted robocalls. We know robocallers are annoying to our customers. We’re working hard to implement innovative ways, like the STIR/SHAKEN standard, to stop these bad actors, and we’re glad the FCC is also focused on taking aggressive action and exploring new tools to protect consumers. While there may not be a silver bullet that entirely ends these activities, we’re fully committed to fighting the scourge of robocalls.”

In a blog post titled – Blocking and Tackling Robocalls, Ajit Pai mentioned that, “Robocalls … have become a major nuisance to the point where I don’t answer any calls unless I know the number — and have missed some very important calls … because of that.”

“Combatting the scourge of unwanted robocalls has topped my consumer protection agenda since I became FCC Chairman. And that’s why we’ve taken many steps to fight these calls. We’ve authorized carriers to block robocalls from certain spoofed numbers. We’ve authorized the creation of a reassigned numbers database. We’ve taken aggressive enforcement action against those who unleash robocalls on consumers. We’ve demanded that phone carriers establish a robust call-authentication framework by the end of this year. And we have been working with Congress on much-needed, bipartisan anti-robocall legislation, like the TRACED Act Opens a New Window.  and the STOP Robocalls Act Opens a New Window. .

But this isn’t an easy problem to solve, and we always need to be thinking about what more we can do. For example, call-blocking services use analytics to identify and filter out unwanted calls. They can be a powerful weapon in the fight against robocalls, just as email providers routinely filter junk messages into your spam folder. But call-blocking services aren’t very common because they’re only offered on an opt-in basis. In other words, consumers have to actively reach out to their voice service provider to have blocking activated. Few do, and the tide of robocalls keeps coming in.

Thankfully, the FCC can change this. So at our June meeting, we’ll vote on a declaratory ruling that would allow phone companies to implement strong call-blocking services as the default setting for their customers. Basically, instead of being offered call blocking on an opt-in basis, carriers could provide block calls unless you affirmatively opt-out. This could mean a major reduction in robocalls, as call blocking would become the rule, not the exception.

This ruling would also make clear that phone companies can allow consumers to use their own contacts as a “white list.” That means your phone is only going to ring if the call is coming from somebody in your list of contacts. The item also proposes a safe harbor for carriers that block phone calls that aren’t properly authenticated once the call authentication system (called SHAKEN/STIR Opens a New Window. ) is up and running.” he added.