U.S. asks phone companies
to provide 'robocall' blocking technology
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[July 23, 2016]
By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The chairman of the
Federal Communications Commission on Friday pressed major U.S. phone
companies to take immediate steps to make technology that blocks
unwanted automated calls available to consumers at no charge.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, in letters to CEOs of major phone companies,
said so-called robocalls, automated pre-recorded telephone calls often
from telemarketers or scam artists, continue "due in large part to
Wheeler's letters went to chief executives of companies including
Verizon Communications Inc, AT&T Inc, Sprint Corp, US Cellular Corp,
Level 3 Communications Inc, Frontier Communications Corp, Bandwidth.com
Inc, and T-Mobile US.
Wheeler said in a blog post on Friday that he wants answers from the
companies "within 30 days with their concrete, actionable solutions to
address these issues."
The letters, reviewed by Reuters, noted that the FCC does not require
phone providers to offer robocall blocking and filtering but the FCC has
"strongly encouraged providers to offer these services" at no charge to
Tom Power, general counsel at CTIA, the wireless trade association, said
on Friday that "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."
The FCC gets hundreds of thousands of complaints annually about
robocalls and unwanted text messages.
Wheeler's letters also said providers can do more to ensure that
incoming calls are not "spoofed," when callers falsify the information
transmitted to caller-ID displays to disguise their identity.
Scam artists often try to appear to call from a bank or a government
phone to trick consumers into disclosing confidential financial or
account information. Other scams pitch phony vacation or mortgage
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Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler speaks
at the FCC Net Neutrality hearing in Washington DC, U.S. February
26, 2015. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas/File Photo
In the letters, the FCC said the phone industry should create a "Do Not
Originate" list that would allow government agencies, banks and healthcare
providers, among others, to register their phone numbers and would allow
providers to block calls from outside the United States. Many phone scams based
overseas target Americans.
The FCC said last year it agreed that phone companies should not block calls
without customers permission. Wheeler noted that providers "have suggested that
blocking should wait until new Caller ID authentication standards are in place,
but that is not a valid excuse for delay."
The FCC has brought 13 enforcement actions to combat robocalls since 2013. In
2015, the FCC fined a Florida company nearly $3 million for illegal calls
promoting travel deals.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Will Dunham)
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