FCC Votes to Give Carriers New Powers to Block 'Robocalls'

The Federal Communications Commission wants to make it legal for phone companies to block unwanted robocalls by default. The change would "make it easier for consumers" to get robocall relief, said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, noting that many people often are unaware such technology exists in the first place. "Full stop", Rosenworcel said.

The FCC also voted to Thursday advance a proposal requiring voice service providers to implement a caller ID authentication framework if major voice service providers fail to do so by the end of this year and sought comment on whether the FCC should create a safe harbor for providers that block calls that are maliciously spoofed so that caller ID can not be authenticated. Last year, the agency received more than 232,000 complaints from consumers frustrated with spam calls, FCC officials said.

The FCC also voted to allow carriers to let companies block any calls not on a consumer's contact list if they opt in.

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The major carriers welcomed the FCC's move.

Meanwhile, Pai's proposal triggered a groundswell of industry lobbying, particularly on the part of financial institutions, debt collectors and hospitals.

To address concerns from opponents, Pai also clarified the agency believes call blocking services should include a redress to allow consumers to raise concerns over which communications were prevented.

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The vote clears the way for carriers to switch on robocall-blocking technologies for phone lines by default. The FCC's recent efforts on call blocking are not mandatory, meaning telecom giants simply could choose not to change their practices.

The crackdown would free up network capacity and cut the number of consumers being scammed by criminals, he said.

And while the FCC is urging wireless carriers to offer call blocking for free, the order would not mandate it. One of its tools, a free app known as Call Protect, requires users to download and enable it. Verizon has already spoke in support of the ruling, saying in a press release, "As we continue to evolve the [Call Filter service], we intend to take advantage of the new flexibility the FCC is giving us".

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However, there is no requirement to make telecoms companies provide the call-blocking service for free. It did not offer further comment on the FCC's plans. "But in case it isn't, the FCC will not hesitate to take regulatory action".

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