FCC decision on robocalls due March 23, 2017

Today, the FCC Chairman, Ajit Pai, announced that on March 23, 2017, the FCC will hold an open meeting for the Commissioners vote on six proposals and orders. The first action will be a decision on how the FCC should address robocalls. Below are the chairman’s words.

Topping the list will be a proposal to combat the top source of consumer complaints to the FCC: robocalls.

We’ve all been there. You’re eating dinner or in the middle of watching your favorite show and you’re disturbed by the ring of a pre-recorded call. These calls are not just a nuisance; they’re often scams. For example, outlaw operators areposing as IRS agentsand threatening people, particularly older Americans and other vulnerable populations, that if they don’t send them money, law enforcement will come after them.

There are rules on the books prohibiting these unwanted calls, but scofflaws are finding creative ways to avoid getting caught. When U.S. consumers are receiving 2.4 billion robocalls a month, we need to do more. And by “we,” I mean the FCC, collaborating with the private sector. I’m grateful for the company leaders and consumer groups who teamed up in 2016 to form theRobocall Strike Force, which has been working to come up with solutions to this growing problem.

One of the issues the Task Force has singled out is caller ID spoofing. Through spoofing, someone calling from one number (555–1212) changes caller ID information to make it appear as though he’s calling from a different number (867–5309). Scammers and spammers use spoofing to disguise their identity, to trick consumers into answering unwanted calls, and to hide from authorities. And under the FCC’s current rules, which generally prevent call-blocking, there is not much that carriers can do to stop this.

This must change. Under my proposal, the FCC would give providers greater leeway to block spoofed robocalls. Specifically, they could block calls that purport to be from unassigned or invalid phone numbers (there’s a database that keeps track of all phone numbers, and many of them aren’t assigned to a voice service provider or aren’t otherwise in use). There is no reason why any legitimate caller should be spoofing an unassigned or invalid phone number. It’s just a way for scammers to evade the law.

The American people have long made it clear—and industry, consumer groups, and government are unified behind them—that they want unwanted robocalls to stop. This month, we’ll hopefully take an important step toward combating this scourge.

At TransNexus, we expect this FCC decision will encourage service providers to take innovative new steps to protect their subscribers from annoying and dangerous phone calls. In addition, this could be a first regulatory incentive for carriers to adopt proven security practices that can restore the integrity of telephone numbers for identifying the calling party. We welcome this initiative and are aggressively developing new tools that telephone service providers can use to protect their subscribers.