<pre><pre>FCC commissioner blows carriers for failing to fight robocalls

Carriers have been slow to tackle the increasing robocall problem, but the Federal Communications Commission may be about to force their hand. In a letter to fourteen US airlines, FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks today called for the confusing and often ineffective options available to consumers to combat automated spam calls and threatens regulatory measures if carriers do not improve.

"Despite historical insistence on new tools, it does not seem that all providers have rushed to deploy opt-out robocall blocking services," Starks told carriers. "The Commission has said clearly: we expect free opt-out call terminals to be offered to consumers. Reviewing the content of these responses, broadly the plans of carriers for these services are far from clear."

In June, the FCC agreed to allow airlines to block robocalls by default, and challenged airlines to take protective measures before the end of the year using the STIR / SHAKEN protocol. In response to that order, Commissioner Starks asked the telecom to inform the Commission of their intention to offer standard free robocall blocking services.

But the responses to this request, published today alongside the letter from Starks, show a series of confusing and obscure tools. AT & T released its own standard robocall blocking system (called "Call Protect") on July 9, making it the default setting for all newly installed lines. T-Mobile's standard "Scam ID" system tries to identify robocalls, but users must sign up for the more extensive "Scam Block" service. (Both products are free.) Comcast proceeded in the same way and told Starks that it "offers a set of free robocall restriction tools that its customers can choose", although it is unclear which of those tools will benefit from the new FCC & # 39; s. mandate to proactively block robocalls.

Other providers are still working on their robocall services. Verizon offers a "Call Filter" service based on STIR / SHAKEN, but told the Commission that "we are actively working on ways to make call blocking more widely available to our customers." (The company did not offer a timeline for that work.) Sprint said it would offer a free call blocking application "in the near future."

Many carriers also boasted millions or even billions of robocalls a year with their current systems. However, these efforts do not seem to delay the spread of calls, which have reached epidemic proportions. In January, a YouMail survey It is estimated that nearly 48 billion robocalls were made in the US in 2018, an increase of more than 50 percent over the previous year.

Transporters' responses do not seem to have been satisfied with Starks, which hinted at possible regulatory measures if transporters are unable to deploy new tools quickly. "If we find that carriers act contrary to our expectations, we will start making rules," Starks wrote. "I expect carriers to update as progress is made in offering free call blocking services and to recommend that carriers do not stop before work is completed. The sooner the better."