FCC unveils new proposal to crack down on robocalls

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The Federal Communications Commission is ramping up robocall protections for consumers.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced a proposal on Wednesday, that would allow phone companies to block illegal robocalls before they reach your phone.

If the plan is approved, phone companies would be able to automatically apply robocall-blocking technologies to their customer accounts. 

The FCC compared the proposal to the way email providers block spam. Phone companies would be able to detect and analyze robocalls, then block the call from ever reaching your phone. 

“Allowing call blocking by default could be a big benefit for consumers who are sick and tired of robocalls. By making it clear that such call blocking is allowed, the FCC will give voice service providers the legal certainty they need to block unwanted calls from the outset so that consumers never have to get them,” Chairman Pai said.

Pai noted that many phone companies have held off on implementing blocking tools themselves, because they weren’t sure whether they’d be considered illegal by regulators. This proposal would change that, by clearing the way for them to add such technology.   

The FCC suggested that phone companies could use analytics and consumer “white lists,” to figure out which calls to block. The white lists may be based off your phone’s contact list, then updated automatically when you add or remove contacts. Many third-party developers already used so-called “white lists,” in call blocking apps.  

Under the proposal, consumers would also be able to opt out of the call-blocking program, and decide whether they want the calls to go straight to voicemail or be blocked completely.

The FCC is also asking for public input, on the best way to verify the owner of a particular phone number, to cut down on spoofing. Spoofing is when robo-callers use legitimate phone numbers to trick consumers into answering.

The full commission is set to consider the proposal next month.

If it passes, the FCC said it would significantly reduce robocalls for consumers, and could take effect as early as the end of the year.

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