United States official to propose new powers for mobile carriers to block robocalls

FCC Chairman Pai

Pai's proposal, if adopted, would allow wireless carriers to block those robocalls for customers by default.

Later Wednesday, Pai and four other FCC commissioners are set to testify before a US House of Representatives panel over the growing number of robocalls. If passed, customers could opt in to a filter system that would only allow calls through from numbers in their contacts, dubbed a "white list".

The FCC claims wireless carriers have not pursued tools that allow calls to be blocked by default because of legal uncertainty about such tools under the FCC's rules. The industry is working on deploying this long-in-the-works system, called "STIR/SHAKEN", but it's been a slow process.

YouMail, a company that blocks robocalls and tracks them, estimated there were 4.9 billion unwanted usa calls last month after almost 48 billion in 2018, which was up almost 60 percent over 2017. All of the agency's new anti-robocall efforts will be teed up for a vote at its next meeting on June 6.

"Allowing call blocking by default could be a big benefit for consumers who are sick and exhausted of robocalls".

Three-quarters of the US Senate backs legislation to provide regulators and law enforcement additional tools to prevent illegal robocalls and punish robocallers.

Hardly anyone needs a reminder of how pervasive the problem of robocalls has become, or how ineffective the action against them has been up to this point.

In May 2018, Pai called on companies to adopt an industry-developed "call authentication system" aimed at ending the use of illegitimate spoofed numbers from the telephone system. He raised the threat of regulatory action "if the companies do not take the steps necessary to protect consumers".

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democrat, said this week that the FCC should "require call authentication technology" and "make available free tools to consumers to block these calls".

The number of unwanted robocalls skyrocketed 46% from 2017 to 2018. And speaking of the FCC, it received nearly 6 million complaints about unwanted calls last year, according to a report the agency issued earlier this year. The number breaks down to an average of 10 monthly calls per person. For example, some people want to receive automated payment reminders from credit card companies, whereas others might prefer to block such calls.

Robocalls have become so common that a 2018 report predicted nearly 50 percent of all mobile calls will be scam calls this year.

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