Four weeks ago, if you asked what the government was doing to protect consumers from robocalls, there wasn’t a clear answer. Carriers weren’t required to provide phone protection. The government proposed legislation but it wasn’t strong enough to work on its own.
Currently, consumers’ best course of action is to download a spam blocking app. Or, they can buy a device that already provides phone protection. However, that is a small piece of the population against a computer that can make thousands of phone calls each minute.
With robocalls rising at a significant rate, doubling year-over-year, the issue could no longer go unnoticed. After an all-time high of unwanted call complaints and heightened awareness brought by consumer protection groups such as Consumers Union, the FCC stepped in and demanded change.
On July 21, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler sent letters to nine major U.S. carriers. The letter demanded carriers develop a tool for consumers to control unwanted robocalls. Along with that, carriers were to vigorously mitigate such calls from ever reaching consumers’ phones. The carriers were given 30 days to respond. In the land of large corporations, that is a very small window. In the land of average smartphone users, that is another 13 unwanted calls each month.
Four days after the initial letter was sent, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson responded – and strongly. He promised a “robocall strike force” with himself leading the charge. While this response may have seemed like lip-service initially, the opposite is true.
This morning, the FCC is hosting the first meeting of this industry-led robocall strike force. Executives of all major carriers will be in attendance which is no small feat [imagine the scheduling!]. The mission of this robocall strike force is to “accelerate the development and adoption of new tools and solutions to abate the proliferation of robocalls and to make recommendations to the FCC on the role government can play in this battle.”
One option currently available to carriers is a network-based solution. This tool offers the highest protection quality in speed, coverage and accuracy. It works by integrating with “wireless and wireline networks to enable service providers to identify where calls originate and block them before they reach end users.” Alternatively, network-based solutions can also be deployed via native handset integration.
Though the U.S. is leading the charge in this uphill battle, this is not an isolated issue. Spam rates are rapidly rising in every country. The protection of telephony networks’ critical infrastructure is a matter of national security. It is overdue in being treated as such.
It is also important to note that while the strike force is calling out robocalls specifically, this issue is part of a much larger picture. Phone spam affects all subscribers who are steadily moving to a mobile-only device. With all carrier executives joining together on this robocall strike force, it is hopeful that the cross carrier collaboration will combat the bad actors and implement strict punishment for policy violators.
Buckle your seat belts because this could be the beginning of the end for spam calls.