Help coming on blocking scam calls for robocall-plagued US

FCC's Ajit Pai wants to give phone companies more power to block robocalls

The Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday proposed granting AT&T, Verizon and other telecom carriers clearer powers to block suspected spam calls from ringing consumers' phones, a move that comes a month after robocallers dialed Americans almost 5 billion times, according to one industry estimate. Companies would also allow consumers to block calls from unknown numbers themselves.

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. "And we believe that we need to make it easier for phone companies to block these robocalls".

Phone-industry group USTelecom said Pai's proposal was "big and bold" and would help stop unwanted calls from reaching consumers.

The US telecommunications regulator is expected to take action on Pai's proposal at its June 6 meeting.

Pai has also been urging phone carriers to adopt an authentication system, dubbed SHAKEN/STIR, which can differentiate between legit phone calls and spoofed ones.

The number of unwanted robocalls skyrocketed 46% from 2017 to 2018. The systems would include protections against blocking emergency calls, and consumers would be able to opt-out of call blocking if they wish. It estimates there were 4.9 billion calls placed in April 2019 - a rate of 14.9 calls per person.

There would not be legal liability for companies that employ the "shaken/stir" technology to block calls that have "not been authenticated under the framework", according to Pai.

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"While there may not be a silver bullet that entirely ends these activities, we're fully committed to fighting the scourge of robocalls", it said in a statement.

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

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

The FCC's proposal also would allow providers to offer customers an even more aggressive form of blocking than the default option.

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democrat, said this week the FCC should require call authentication technology and make available free tools to consumers to block the calls.

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

FCC chairman Ajit Pai proposed new rules to combat robocalls. Pai, a Republican, says he hopes it will give consumers the "peace of mind that they deserve".

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