Daily Management Review

Crackdown on ‘Robocall’ to be done by AT&T, Apple, Google and Other tech & Communication Firms


Crackdown on ‘Robocall’ to be done by AT&T, Apple, Google and Other tech & Communication Firms
A crack down on "robocalls," automated, prerecorded phone calls that regulators have labeled a "scourge" in the U.S. is to be initiated as more than 30 major technology and communication companies said on Friday they are joining the U.S. government for the crackdown.
Among members of the "Robocall Strike Force" that held its first meeting with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission include big names form the U.S. IT industry such as AT&T Inc, Google parent Alphabet Inc, Apple Inc, Verizon Communications Inc and Comcast Corp.
AT&T Chief Executive Officer Randall Stephenson, and chairman of the group said that "concrete plans to accelerate the development and adoption of new tools and solutions" would be presented in the form of a report by the strike force to the FCC by Oct. 19.
Considerations for a "Do Not Originate" list that would block spoofers from impersonating legitimate phone numbers from governments, banks or others and Caller ID verification standards to help block calls from spoofed phone numbers are to be hopefully implemented by the strike force.
A call to block robocalls, which often come from telemarketers or scam artists, was given in July by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler who urged the major companies to take new action to make such blocks.
"This scourge must stop," Wheeler said on Friday. Robocalls was the No. 1 complaint from consumers, Wheeler added.
"The bad guys are beating the good guys with technology," Wheeler said. Robocalls continue "due in large part to industry inaction,"he has been quoted to have said in the past.
"The breadth and complexity" of the problem was emphasized by Stephenson.
"This is going to require more than individual company initiatives and one-off blocking apps. Robocallers are a formidable adversary, notoriously hard to stop," Stephenson said.
The FCC has strongly encouraged phone service providers to offer robocall blocking and filtering services at no charge even though it does not require robocall blocking and filtering.
Carriers, device makers, operating system developers, network designers and the government are brought together by the strike force.
"We have to come out of this with a comprehensive play book for all of us to go execute. We have calls that are perfectly legal, but unwanted, like telemarketers and public opinion surveyors. At the other end of the spectrum, we have millions of calls that are blatantly illegal," Stephenson said.
"Preliminary conversations about short- and longer-term initiatives" have been held by technical experts representing the companies, Stephenson said.
The problem was termed as complicated by Joan Marsh, AT&T vice president of federal regulatory issues. "We have been wrangling with this problem long enough to know there is no silver bullet. Nothing by itself is going to do it," she said.
Blackberry Ltd, British Telecommunications Plc, Charter Communications Inc, Frontier Communications, LG Electronics Inc, Microsoft Corp, Nokia Corp, Qualcomm Inc, Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, Sirius XM Holdings Inc, T-Mobile US Inc  and U.S. Cellular Corp were the other companies taking part.
The task force is a sign "phone companies are taking more serious steps to protect their customers from unwanted calls," said Consumers Union, a public advocacy group.