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FCC proposes new rules to allow carriers to block robocalls 'by default'

16 May 2019

The FCC is seeking to broaden the uptick of call blocking services, which customers must now engage in voluntarily, as well as empower providers to further develop the technology.

While the FCC previously mandated adoption of the technology, under the proposal companies would be given the leeway to experiment with how it can be used to block unwanted calls.

In its analysis, Hiya found that people received an average of about 10 spam calls per month.

"The criminals that are scamming consumers with this flood of illegal robocalls must be confronted by industry and government head-on", the group's president and CEO Jonathan Spalter said in a statement.

"Verizon welcomes today's announcement and the related work that the FCC and the industry have been doing to protect consumers from unwanted robocalls. My questions go to how much it helps", Saunders said, referring to whether consumers would be protected from unwanted debt-collector and telemarketing calls as well as scams.

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"What we find is there's a range of things that people are comfortable with having blocked", he told NPR.

Wireless carriers have been challenged in combating robocalls and call spoofing practices, which have grown enormously over the last few years.

Providers should clearly disclose to consumers what types of calls may be blocked.

And then there are extreme examples, he added, that might have made providers reluctant to embrace sweeping action in the past that could expose them to legal liability: "It's the fear that you block a number and it's Grandma calling and she's having a heart attack".

The idea put forward by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai - and pending approval from the agency's commissioners - encourages carriers to enable their anti-robocall technology by default, as opposed to waiting for consumers to turn on those features themselves.

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In a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking draft, Pai outlines a policy that would create a safe harbor for providers that implement network-wide blocking of calls that fail caller authentication under the SHAKEN/STIR framework. Or for those in need of a nuclear option, the ruling could also allow consumers to prohibit calls from any number that isn't in their contact list.

"The number of #robocalls we get is INSANE".

The FCC has committed to squashing robocalls before but the issue has only gotten worse over time.

One study says Americans received more than 26 billion robocalls a year ago. Pai's goal is to get the proposal granted and passed at the FCC's Open Commission meeting on June 6. Pai, a Republican, says he hopes it will give consumers the "peace of mind that they deserve".

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FCC proposes new rules to allow carriers to block robocalls 'by default'