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

Yolanda Curtis
May 16, 2019

Voice service providers may offer opt-out call-blocking programs based on any reasonable analytics created to identify unwanted calls and will have flexibility on how to dispose of those calls, such as sending straight to voicemail, alerting the customer of a robocall, or blocking the call altogether.

Today the FCC Commission Chairman Ajit Pai proposed a rule change that would allow phone providers to block robocalls before your phone even rings.

Pai said many service providers have held off developing and deploying default call-blocking tools because of uncertainty about whether the tools are legal under the FCC rules.

The Federal Communications Commission said Wednesday that it will vote in June on whether to allow to carriers block spam calls by default, which should mean that more spam calls are blocked.

The tool would not block emergency calls.

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

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% from 2017. It's not clear if carriers would automatically block those calls, too, said Margot Saunders, senior counsel for the National Consumer Law Center and an expert on robocalls.

One study says Americans received more than 26 billion robocalls a year ago.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai on the future of 5G, Huawei, digital privacy and collecting robocall fines. 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.

In November, Pai wrote to the chief executive officers of major providers including AT&T, Verizon and Sprint, demanding they launch the system no later than 2019 to combat robocalls. "And we believe that we need to make it easier for phone companies to block these robocalls".

That marks a 46 percent increase from 2017, when users logged about 18 billion robocalls.

People received about 60 incoming calls from 'unrecognized numbers or numbers not linked to a person in their contact list'.

The FCC has not yet released the specific details of its proposal - in particular, what kinds of guidelines the agency will provide companies for determining whether a call is "wanted" or "unwanted". If they were on by default, more people would naturally benefit from them.

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