FCC Chairman Pai proposes blocking robocalls by default

Shawn Knight

TechSpot Staff
Staff member

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai on Wednesday circulated a declaratory ruling that could pave the way for phone companies to block robocalls by default, similar to how e-mail providers block spam.

Service providers have historically been reluctant to develop and deploy call block tools by default due to uncertainty regarding their legality under the FCC’s rules. By making it clear that such call blocking is allowed, Pai said, the FCC will give service providers the certainty they’ve been missing.

Pai’s declaratory ruling mandates that blocking should not interfere with emergency communications systems in any way. Furthermore, service providers must provide sufficient information so consumers can decide whether or not they want to remain in the program or opt out.

The FCC has committed to squashing robocalls before but the issue has only gotten worse over time. According to YouMail, a company that blocks and tracks robocalls, there were nearly 48 billion unwanted calls in the US in 2018 and an estimated 4.9 billion last month alone.

“If this decision is adopted, I strongly encourage carriers to begin providing these services by default – for free – to their current and future customers,” Pai added.

The commission will consider Pai’s proposal at its June 6 meeting.

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wiyosaya

TS Evangelist
Why does he even bother? The ability to block all calls not on your contact list is already baked into android and iOS.

It's amazing people dont google how to block this stuff themselves, it takes all of 10 seconds.
Why does he even bother? To make it look like he is actually doing something while he is FCC chairman, of course!
 
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Theinsanegamer

TS Evangelist
Why does he even bother? The ability to block all calls not on your contact list is already baked into android and iOS.

It's amazing people dont google how to block this stuff themselves, it takes all of 10 seconds.
Why does he even bother? To make it look like he is actually doing something while he is FCC chairman, of course!
Fair enough.

Better way of putting it: why are so many people waiting on the federal government to fix what they already have the tools to do so?
 

stewi0001

TS Evangelist
Platinum
Why does he even bother? The ability to block all calls not on your contact list is already baked into android and iOS.

It's amazing people dont google how to block this stuff themselves, it takes all of 10 seconds.
There are some issues:
1. Robo calls are faking their numbers and sometimes the faked numbers are actual people.
2. Some people may not have access to their block feature. Example (me) I got my LG G4 many moons ago from the Verizon store. One day I was trying to figure out how to block unwanted numbers and I came to realize that Verizon had disabled the feature, most likely so you would have to use their paid service to block a number. I do not know if Verizon still does this, but either way I'm not getting a phone from there anymore.
 

Theinsanegamer

TS Evangelist
Why does he even bother? The ability to block all calls not on your contact list is already baked into android and iOS.

It's amazing people dont google how to block this stuff themselves, it takes all of 10 seconds.
There are some issues:
1. Robo calls are faking their numbers and sometimes the faked numbers are actual people.
2. Some people may not have access to their block feature. Example (me) I got my LG G4 many moons ago from the Verizon store. One day I was trying to figure out how to block unwanted numbers and I came to realize that Verizon had disabled the feature, most likely so you would have to use their paid service to block a number. I do not know if Verizon still does this, but either way I'm not getting a phone from there anymore.
1. How often does this occur? I cant think once, of the thousands of robo calls I've gotten over the last two years, of a single time a robo caller was a contact. Even if, on occasion, a robo caller WAS a contact, the vast majority are not, and blocking non contacts will mostly solve the issue.
2. It sucks you got suckered into a carrier phone, but the google phone app is available on the play store, as are many other dialer apps. There is nothing stopping you or anyone else from downloading it and using the block feature. Verizon only blocks it on the verizon caller, and all that can easily be replaced on android.
 

seeprime

TS Guru
Why does he even bother? The ability to block all calls not on your contact list is already baked into android and iOS.

It's amazing people dont google how to block this stuff themselves, it takes all of 10 seconds.
There are some issues:
1. Robo calls are faking their numbers and sometimes the faked numbers are actual people.
2. Some people may not have access to their block feature. Example (me) I got my LG G4 many moons ago from the Verizon store. One day I was trying to figure out how to block unwanted numbers and I came to realize that Verizon had disabled the feature, most likely so you would have to use their paid service to block a number. I do not know if Verizon still does this, but either way I'm not getting a phone from there anymore.
The carriers need to implement software, referred to as shaken & stirred, that checks the apparent caller against the actual phone number. If they don't match, the call is killed. This is what carriers are dragging their feet on, spending money.

I use Call Blocker by Vlad that sends all calls not from my contacts directly to voice mail without ringing. It's a nice add on for older phones.
 
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stewi0001

TS Evangelist
Platinum
1. How often does this occur? I cant think once, of the thousands of robo calls I've gotten over the last two years, of a single time a robo caller was a contact. Even if, on occasion, a robo caller WAS a contact, the vast majority are not, and blocking non contacts will mostly solve the issue.
2. It sucks you got suckered into a carrier phone, but the google phone app is available on the play store, as are many other dialer apps. There is nothing stopping you or anyone else from downloading it and using the block feature. Verizon only blocks it on the verizon caller, and all that can easily be replaced on android.
1. Not sure, just saying it is possible. I know my wife has had people text her with stuff like, "stop calling me!" and worse. However, she was not the one who was calling. I have noticed that most of the bot calls I get will have almost the exact number as I do. I suppose this is to trick people into thinking it is someone local.
2. Eh, I wouldn't say suckered. I was so used to phone plan for such a long time even before smart phones. Once smart phones became the norm, I noticed the bloat apps but just ignored it. When I realized they disabled native android functions that's when I got ticked off.
 

wiyosaya

TS Evangelist
Fair enough.

Better way of putting it: why are so many people waiting on the federal government to fix what they already have the tools to do so?
Unfortunately, for them that is, there are probably more people out there that would not know where to even start with call blocking.

For me, if I don't recognize the number, I don't answer. Anyone legitimately needing to talk to me will leave a message. Most of the time, I don't even have my cell phone on.
1. Not sure, just saying it is possible. I know my wife has had people text her with stuff like, "stop calling me!" and worse. However, she was not the one who was calling. I have noticed that most of the bot calls I get will have almost the exact number as I do. I suppose this is to trick people into thinking it is someone local.
2. Eh, I wouldn't say suckered. I was so used to phone plan for such a long time even before smart phones. Once smart phones became the norm, I noticed the bloat apps but just ignored it. When I realized they disabled native android functions that's when I got ticked off.
For 1, I had some DB do that a couple weeks back. I would have to say that that, too, results from ignorance as the best thing to do is ignore anything that you don't recognize, IMO.
 

m4a4

TS Evangelist
Why does he even bother? The ability to block all calls not on your contact list is already baked into android and iOS.

It's amazing people dont google how to block this stuff themselves, it takes all of 10 seconds.
No. This is ignorant and short sighted at best.
The only counter against that "argument" needed is: not everyone can afford to block unknown numbers.

Think before you assume.
 
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p51d007

TS Evangelist
Why does he even bother? The ability to block all calls not on your contact list is already baked into android and iOS.

It's amazing people dont google how to block this stuff themselves, it takes all of 10 seconds.
Exactly. When a call comes in, I don't know (even with spam calls that have the same area code & prefix), if they aren't on my contact list, I don't answer...if no voicemail, they get sent to the block list. Also, there are some pretty good blocking apps that automatically block. Between that, and my block list, I don't get bothered by robo calls.
 

PEnnn

TS Addict
To all those who are bragging they can block anything in "10 seconds " using their Android: There are millions of people who do still use landlines, you know.....

PS: Apple removed the option to block unknown numbers, for some strange reason (Now you have to receive such a call THEN you can block it!)
Previously, you could select an option to block all unknown numbers in advance, Now that option has disappeared.
 
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I've gotten to the point where I refuse to answer my own phone. I wait for voicemail and call back.

I'm getting robocalls, Indian Solar Panel sales, Chinese ticket sales for Shen Yun, States of the US I've never done business with...

I have no credit balances.

My family and friends are logged into the phone so I answer for them...

So basically I just don't pick up.
 

Jeff Re

TS Maniac
I'm pretty sure their numbers are wrong since I personally got at least a billion robocalls in the last year. :p

As for donotcall.gov, if it helps I'm even more appalled. I'm on the list and still get at least a couple calls every week, and if the 48 billion number is correct, the math works out to about three calls per person per week so it is definitely not benefitting me.
 
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JamesSWD

TS Maniac
Why does he even bother? The ability to block all calls not on your contact list is already baked into android and iOS.

It's amazing people dont google how to block this stuff themselves, it takes all of 10 seconds.
There are some issues:
1. Robo calls are faking their numbers and sometimes the faked numbers are actual people.
2. Some people may not have access to their block feature. Example (me) I got my LG G4 many moons ago from the Verizon store. One day I was trying to figure out how to block unwanted numbers and I came to realize that Verizon had disabled the feature, most likely so you would have to use their paid service to block a number. I do not know if Verizon still does this, but either way I'm not getting a phone from there anymore.
1. How often does this occur? I cant think once, of the thousands of robo calls I've gotten over the last two years, of a single time a robo caller was a contact. Even if, on occasion, a robo caller WAS a contact, the vast majority are not, and blocking non contacts will mostly solve the issue.
2. It sucks you got suckered into a carrier phone, but the google phone app is available on the play store, as are many other dialer apps. There is nothing stopping you or anyone else from downloading it and using the block feature. Verizon only blocks it on the verizon caller, and all that can easily be replaced on android.
Bingo. I'm in the same boat with my Android purchased a few months ago. Couldn't find the feature until I realized that either the carrier or Motorola disabled it. That really torqued me.
 
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JamesSWD

TS Maniac
As a business owner with both land lines and smart phones, the amount of robocalls we get is ridiculous. And the DoNotCall list is pretty much useless because most of these operations are offshore in third-world s-hole countries, where US laws have no jurisdiction.

On top of that, many phone makers & carriers disable or hobble call block features, indicating that they have a profit motive in this game.

And just to add more twists, spoofers are finding new ways to get to you and even jingle you with your own phone number on the caller ID.

At least this admin is trying to fix the problem, unlike the previous useless admin.
 

jpuroila

TS Enthusiast
Why does he even bother? The ability to block all calls not on your contact list is already baked into android and iOS.

It's amazing people dont google how to block this stuff themselves, it takes all of 10 seconds.
I'm pretty sure blocking all calls not on your contact list is a terrible idea if you're most people. If you're getting a call related to a doctor's appointment, it's not going to come from a number on your contact list. If you're looking for a job, any calls from would-be employers aren't going to be from your contact list. If you're running your own business, any would-be clients are almost certainly not already on your contact list. And so on.
 
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Bp968

TS Booster
Why does he even bother? The ability to block all calls not on your contact list is already baked into android and iOS.

It's amazing people dont google how to block this stuff themselves, it takes all of 10 seconds.
There are some issues:
1. Robo calls are faking their numbers and sometimes the faked numbers are actual people.
2. Some people may not have access to their block feature. Example (me) I got my LG G4 many moons ago from the Verizon store. One day I was trying to figure out how to block unwanted numbers and I came to realize that Verizon had disabled the feature, most likely so you would have to use their paid service to block a number. I do not know if Verizon still does this, but either way I'm not getting a phone from there anymore.
1. How often does this occur? I cant think once, of the thousands of robo calls I've gotten over the last two years, of a single time a robo caller was a contact. Even if, on occasion, a robo caller WAS a contact, the vast majority are not, and blocking non contacts will mostly solve the issue.
2. It sucks you got suckered into a carrier phone, but the google phone app is available on the play store, as are many other dialer apps. There is nothing stopping you or anyone else from downloading it and using the block feature. Verizon only blocks it on the verizon caller, and all that can easily be replaced on android.
Some of us run small businesses. My wife does and so she *can't* block unknown callers because they could be clients. So she has to answer them all. 6-8 years ago she might have gotten a couple robo calls a week. Now she gets 8-10 a day, everyday. She's only one person, she can't afford to hire someone to answer the phone (nor should she need too).

The robocallers are abusing the phone system and every customer who is using it. Their ability to buy up large blocks of local numbers and spoof local numbers is the primary problem.

It's a matter of cost. It costs them far less to abuse the system like their doing then it should. The expense and risk involved needs to be large enough that its no longer financially a good option to have a rack of computers doing endless automated calls against every phone number they can stuff into a list.

I'm usually opposed to hamfisted government interference or control but in this particular case I would be totally onboard with significant financial penalties for robocalls. It's rendered the "standard" "pots" network borderline useless to me as an individual. I have a handful of numbers (family, my extensive list of doctors, local hospitals, etc) that actually ring my phone, everything else gets ignored. They have essentially spammed the network to near uselessness for many of us.
 
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mailpup

TS Special Forces
CVS pharmacy uses robocalls to notify people that their prescriptions are ready and waiting for them. This is especially useful for ongoing refillable prescriptions. Some local government agencies use robocalls to notify residents of wide area emergencies like possible evacuations. Utilities such as Southern California Edison have used them to notify customers of local electrical outages and their estimated time of repair. Emergency management authorities could use them to contact Emergency Operations Center (EOC) personnel during emergencies. I'm sure there are other legitimate uses for these types of calls. Hopefully allowance can be made for these kinds of uses.