May 8, 2020

Robo Call Relief

The FCC tried to get phone companies to voluntarily enact technology to reduce or eliminate robo calls and many did, but some did not. The new action is to require all phone companies to deploy technology that prevents spoofing of Caller ID under a plan by Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai.

The original requirement on the FCC was part of the TRACED Act that was signed into law in December 2019. Pai previously hoped that all carriers would deploy the technology voluntarily.

The STIR and SHAKEN protocols use digital certificates, based on public-key cryptography, to verify the accuracy of Caller ID. STIR/SHAKEN would work best if all phone companies adopt it because it can only verify Caller ID when both the sending carrier and receiving carrier have deployed the technology. Depending on how each carrier implements it, flagged calls could be passed on to consumers with a warning or be blocked entirely.

The requirement would apply to big carriers by June 30, 2021 and to small and rural providers one year later. In addition to mobile providers, companies that offer IP-based phone service over cable or fiber lines would have to comply.

While STIR/SHAKEN might help reduce robocalls or slow their growth, it is not enough on its own to solve the large and complicated robocall problem. For one thing, a lot of robocalls originate from overseas. Robocalls from outside US, are a major problem.

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