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How the FCC, the telecom industry and computer programmers are working to fight robocalls

by AirTalk®

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A headset hangs on a cubical wall after the last telemarketing shift at Spectrum Marketing Services, Inc. September 26, 2003 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. William Thomas Cain/Getty Images

After announcing the creation of a Robocall Strike Force in August, the FCC gave the newly-formed task force 60 days to come up with concrete, modern solutions to robocalls.

These kinds of calls are the number one complaint the FCC receives, according to FCC Chairman tom Wheeler and since the federal ‘do not call’ list has been basically defunct for years, the FCC has convened a team of minds from companies like Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Google to help come up with better standards of caller ID verification in the hopes of weeding out unwanted or automated calls from scammers, debt collectors, and more.

Now, those 60 days have passed and today marks the deadline for the task force to report back to FCC Commissioners with those plans. At the group’s first meeting, Chairman Wheeler encouraged the group to ‘get creative’ and suggested the possibility of a “Do Not Originate” list, which would put outgoing numbers that are often spoofed, like those of banks and IRS, into a database that’d be shared among the wireless companies.

Another commissioner suggested legislation to crack down on foreign scammers who prey on Americans by spoofing caller ID. But skeptics say that this would be difficult administratively and logistically for phone companies since numbers are easy to obtain and spoof. They also worry that too much regulation could mean calls that customers do want to receive wouldn’t go through.

The FCC will hold another meeting next week, and it’s expected that the Commissioners will comment on the solutions the Strike Force has proposed.

We contacted the FCC and CTIA - The Wireless Association, which is the main trade group for the wireless and telecom industry. Both declined to participate in our discussion. CTIA did send us a statement from their senior vice president and general counsel, Tom Power:

“Unwanted calls and texts are a consumer issue the wireless industry works hard to address and we look forward to working with the FCC to help address this challenge together."


David Shepardson, reporter for Reuters covering the FCC; he tweets @davidshepardson

Jeff Kagan, wireless analyst and columnist based in Atlanta, GA; he tweets @jeffkagan

Raymond Tu, Ph.D. candidate in computer science at Arizona State University

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