FCC robocall rule would finally give you a nuclear option for blocking phone spam

By Melissa Locker

The Federal Communications Commission has been fighting robocalls for years, but it hasn’t made much headway. Now it has a new plan to save your phone from the seemingly endless plague of spammy phone calls interrupting your podcast listening.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai put forward a proposal that would make it legal for phone companies to block unwanted robocalls by default. Or for those in need of a nuclear option, the ruling could also allow consumers to prohibit calls from any number that isn’t in their contact list.

While carriers like T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon and third-party app developers have been working to deploy so-called STIR and SHAKEN technology that makes it clear if a call is from an authentic number, the FCC says many voice providers have held off on developing call-blocking tools because it was unclear whether those tools were legal under FCC rules. This ruling would make it clear that the FCC is behind robocall-blocking tech innovations.

“By making it clear that such call blocking is allowed, the FCC will give voice service providers the legal certainty they need to block unwanted calls from the outset so that consumers never have to get them,” Pai said in a statement. The systems would include protections against blocking emergency calls, and consumers would be able to opt out of call blocking if they wish. Pai’s proposal also requires that carriers adopt caller ID authentication standards to combat spoofing.

Don’t expect robocalls to disappear immediately, though. The proposal will be considered by the FCC at a meeting on June 6. If approved, it would go into effect … eventually. Until then, continue just never, ever answering the phone in the increasingly expanding robocall hellscape of Alexander Graham Bell’s nightmare.

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