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FCC's Robocall plan sounds terribly familiar

Despite high-profile arrests and clear-name protocols, the robocall space is still indomitable. On Wednesday, the Federal Communications Commissioner Ajit Pai ran a new proposal to put a serious problem into the problem. Stop us if you've heard this before.

On the cover page, Pai & # 39; s suggestions are appealing. It would allow operators to block robocalls by default, rather than on an opt-in basis. If you want even stricter blocking, you can, under the suggestion, choose to use your contact list as a so-called white list, and jump a number you don't already know. And it would lubricate the skis for the carriers to implement standards known as "SHAKEN" and "STIR", which will make it easier to flag calls from counterfeit phone numbers. You know, those who are strangely so close to yourself.

"This is not a simple problem to solve, and we must always think about what we can do," wrote Pai in a blog post announcing the proposal. The FCC will vote on the case on June 6.

These are all pretty good ideas. But they are not new ideas, and Pai & # 39; s proposal does not seem to offer solutions for what has made such rules difficult to implement earlier. And while they almost certainly would help to improve the current robo call, provided they pass next month, they won't end up with it. In fact, they can create new headaches along the way.

Historically, when a technique stops working, the guys only go to another technique. "

Alex Quilici, YouMail

Without knowing the exact language of the proposed rule, it is difficult to say exactly how Pai's broad strokes will play in practice, but the idea that operators should block conversations on behalf of consumers , returning to Tom Wheelers FCC, which in 201[ads1]6 suggested it.

"It seems to follow a well-known pattern from President Pai to take things that the Obama administration did, archive the serial numbers, and try to take credit for it, says Harold Feld, senior vice president of the nonprofit group Public Knowledge. "There is a certain chutzpah in having spent the previous administration in a passionate campaign to undermine every single thing, and disagreement from each order, now trying to pretend these are your own initiatives and take credit for them. "

Still, operators have claimed that the FCC needs to clarify whether they can legally implement robocall blocking on an opt-out basis, after a legal challenge to Wheeler's rule left it in doubt. Determining the problem can spur action on their part. What is less clear is how effective it would be.

"We assume that this rule allows phone companies to implement call blocking technology that blocks all counterfeit calls. It would be great," said Margot Saunders, senior consultant at the National Consumer Law Center. "What are those who are talking about that, though? Because the law does not prohibit all call ID spoofing. It only prohibits caller ID spoofing with the intention of deceiving. "

So yes, you can expect to see fewer incoming calls from numbers that look suspiciously like your own. But as Saunders notes, it's just a kind of robocall. If the attack agreement is cut off, bad actors can always buy legitimate phone numbers Of hundreds, or thousands, of running their scams instead.

"Historically, when a technique stops working, the bad kids just go to another technique," said Alex Quilici, CEO of YouMail, a third-party service that offers robocall blocking. "It will help people in terms of the number of robocalls coming through and bothering them, but I'm not sure it reduces the actual volume of robocalls being made. We saw this when" fraud likely "and other labeling came out from the carriers – and suddenly all the more robokals. "

Consumer inquirers also wonder who should pay for all this. Digging a moat against robocalls does not come cheap, and positioning it as a selection service can potentially simply add another automatic line item to your monthly bill. "I have a strong suspicion that the carriers really want a capability, whether you want it or not, to put a robo call blocking charge on the bill and charge you for it," says Feld. "There is no financial incentive for carriers to improve robocall blocking. As with many things, such as 911 or emergency services, there is a cost that does not make a profit unless you are allowed to thank this as a fee."

Yes, in this scenario you could choose if you wanted, and at least you would get fewer robokals as part of the bargain. But consider how closely you look at the mobile bill, and how often, and remember that any solutions on the table right now will help with the robocall problem, but don't completely solve it. The calculator suddenly doesn't look that simple.

The good news is that those who spend their days in the robokall murder agree that Pai's proposal is a good, important step. But context does matter. These are solutions that have jumped around for years, and it promises incomplete results at best. It's better than nothing. But it's still not as much as you deserve.

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