The Long Fight Against Robocalls: A History of U.S. Phone Protection

A History of Phone Protection

• February 26, 1934: President Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) established the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) during the New Deal. Aiming to create an independent agency specializing in communications. The FCC had authority over radio, telephone, telegraph, and cable companies.

• June 19, 1934: FDR signed the Communications Act of 1934, replacing the Federal Radio Commission with the FCC. Due to the government’s frustration with the Interstate Commerce Commission’s focus on railroad regulations and not on telephone carriers, they transferred interstate telephone services to the FCC.

•1968: SITA communications engineer Theodore George Paraskevakos of Athens, Greece developed a system to automatically identify a caller to a call recipient. The caller’s number was transmitted to the call receiver’s device, creating the basis for modern-day Caller ID technology.

•1991: Due to the growing number of telephone marketing calls, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) was enacted by Congress. The TCPA banned telemarketers from making cold calls to customers. Persistent companies found loop-holes by using pre-recorded calls, text messages, and automated dialing machines.

•1996: The Telecommunications Act was the biggest overhaul of U.S. telecom law, revising the Communications Act of 1934. It was the first time the Internet was included in the broadcasting spectrum. The primary goal was to minimize government control over the broadcasting and telecommunications market.

•October 2003: Teaming up with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the FCC revises the TCPA to include a national Do-Not-Call registry. The registry covered all telemarketers nationwide and applies to both interstate and intrastate calls.

•2008: Hiya (formerly known as Whitepages Caller ID) was the first on the market to offer Caller ID for smartphones.

•2012: With the rise in spam calls, the FCC revisited the TCPA rules to require telemarketers to obtain written consent from consumers before robocalling, to no longer allow telemarketers to use an “established business relationship” to avoid getting consent, and to require telemarketers to provide an automated, interactive “opt-out” mechanism during each robocall for consumers.

•2015: The FCC voted in favor of the protection of landline and mobile phone numbers against unwanted spam text messages and robocalls. The rules allow carriers to provide better call-blocking services to subscribers without violating rules on connecting calls.

•TODAY: Congresswoman Jackie Speier introduced the “Repeated Objectionable Bothering of Consumers on Phones” (ROBOCOP) Act that would require telephone service providers to offer customers free, optional robocall-blocking technology.

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