FCC clears path for carriers to block more robocalls

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The FCC this morning voted 3-0 to give carriers new regulatory cover to combat annoying and oftentimes fraudulent robocalls. The decision backs an ongoing effort begun last year with the establishment of a special government/industry task force.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai called today’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking “an important first step in ending the scourge of robocalls.”

Specifically, the new rules would assure carriers that they are allowed to block calls originating from unassigned numbers and other obvious attempts at fraud such as numbers using 411 or 911 as an area code.

In October the FCC reported that a trial of one such anti-spoofing measure cut IRS scam robocalls by 90 percent.

The order adopted this morning would also “seek input to objectively determine” other technical remedies that would filter out illegal robocalls without also interfering with legitimate communications between businesses and their customers.

“If a legitimate business has consent to contact a consumer it is difficult to see why the business would resort to spoofing an unassigned number,” said Commissioner Michael O’Rielly. “The challenge here is finding the right criteria to capture illegal robocalls without also blocking lawful calls.”

One particular area of concern for O’Rielly is the situation where a business contacts what was previously a number of one of their customers but has since been reassigned.

 “Reassigned numbers remain a huge problem and needs to be resolved without sticking the burden to any legitimate company, especially the wireless carriers,” he said.

(Coincidentally, a robocall congratulating me on having won some great prize was received on my cellphone during the writing of this post.)

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