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In brief: The battle against robocalls finally sees its first action from a carrier at an infrastructure level. While AT&T has had for quite some time a call blocking app that prevents many spam calls, it is finally implementing a blocking system that works at the carrier level so that those calls never reach your number in the first place.
AT&T announced on Tuesday that it would begin automatically blocking spam calls for customers at no extra charge. This will be an on-by-default service, so customers who would prefer to answer auto-dialed calls have to opt out.
The telecom giant says it is using call authentication and "other tools" to identify unwanted or fraudulent callers. The service is first being rolled out to new subscribers. Existing customers will have to wait a bit, but can expect it in "the coming months." In the meantime, the company's Call Protect app is still available and has proven reasonably effective at reducing the number of spam calls.
It was only last month that the Federal Communications Commission approved rules allowing carriers to block robocalls by default. AT&T is the first so far to implement changes at an infrastructure level. It is highly likely other providers will follow by example.
Although Commissioners Michael O'Rielly and Jessica Rosenworcel voted in favor of the rules allowing this action, both expressed misgivings that the regulations do not prevent service providers from charging to block calls.
However, as AT&T is not charging for this service at this time, attempting to regulate a problem that does not yet exist would be putting the cart before the horse. This is an area of the rules that the FCC can undoubtedly revisit if the need arises.
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