The FCC’s ‘New’ Plan Won’t Save America From Robocall Hell
The agency’s unwillingness to stand up to industry will likely be the proposal’s undoing
On any given day, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is blasted with a torrent of consumer complaints. Some are legitimate, while some are aggressively stupid. In addition to gripes about terrible broadband or high TV prices, the agency is routinely inundated with reports about everything from the unbelievable storylines in professional wrestling to the threat of subliminal penises on MythBusters.
But year after year, one annoyance routinely tops the list: robocalls. The agency says roughly 60% of all FCC complaints each year (some 200,000 all told, or around 548 every day) are about annoying “unwanted” calls — a rotating crop of robocalls and other scams perpetrated on American consumers.
Despite endless pledges from the federal government to make it better, including one just last week, the problem is only getting worse. Experts say the telecom industry is largely to blame for the endless onslaught of worthless calls.
And it is an onslaught. Robocall blocking company YouMail runs a Robocall Index tracking the growth of the menace. The company’s latest data indicates that 4.9 billion such calls were placed in April alone, with 6.8 million calls placed each hour. (One survey suggests that 44.6% of all calls to mobile phones will be scams this year.) The culprits utilize technology that allows them to “spoof” their phone number and hide their origins, which makes them much harder to track.
Since 2015, the FCC has levied $208.4 million in fines against robocallers for violating the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), a law passed in 1991 that was designed to restrict the frequency and volume of such calls. Yet only $6,795 has actually been collected, thanks in part to the slow adoption of call authentication technologies, like SHAKEN/STIR, which make it harder for scammers to spoof their numbers and hide their identities.
Last week, FCC chairman Ajit Pai unveiled what he claimed was a new initiative to tackle the robocall menace. As part of the effort, Pai proposed further modifying FCC rules to make it clearer that carriers could implement…