We’ve all been there by now: Phone numbers similar to your own call you multiple times a day, only to reveal themselves as scam operations. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) knows that rampant robocalls are a problem in this country and made a proposal this week that could help out.
FCC chairman Ajit Pai proposed a new rule that, if adopted, would encourage phone carriers to turn anti-robocall technology on by default. Carriers like Verizon have anti-robocall tools for subscribers, but they’re usually optional and need to be turned on. If they were on by default, more people would naturally benefit from them.
“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,” Pai said in a statement.
“And, if this decision is adopted, I strongly encourage carriers to begin providing these services by default—for free—to their current and future customers. I hope my colleagues will join me in supporting this latest attack on unwanted robocalls and spoofing.”
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FCC chairman Ajit Pai proposed new rules to combat robocalls.
Image: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
One interesting thing to note is that Pai’s rules would ask, but not require, carriers to provide these services for free. Verizon’s anti-robocall tool is free, but Sprint’s Premium Caller ID tool is not. So even if the FCC’s new measures pass, carriers could undermine them by charging consumers.
Billions of these fraudulent phone calls are made in the U.S. each month. Technology has made it terrifyingly easy for scammers to contact countless people with little effort; last year, the FCC found that one man in Florida managed to place 96 million robocalls by himself.
The Federal Trade Commission also cracked down on four robocall operations earlier this year, but the problem likely won’t be solved by tracking down individuals who set up robocall operations. More widely accessible robocall-blocking tools might do the trick.