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By Lydia Beyoud
Aug. 19 — The telecommunications industry is working to deliver a solution within the next 60 days to unwanted telemarketing calls and robocalls, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler said Aug. 19 at the inaugural meeting of the industry-led Robocall Strike Force.
But without a solution to what Wheeler called a “scourge” upon consumers, the FCC would take action, he said. “But let me be clear: This is an industry group. We believe in multistakeholder solutions. And when the whole ecosystem can come together, it can produce good results,” Wheeler said during the public portion of the meeting. “But without results, we will be forced to look for other solutions, because this scourge must stop.”
The FCC has ramped up its efforts to crack down on robocalls since Wheeler joined the commission in 2013. On July 22, Wheeler sent letters to the wireless and wireline industries and intermediary carriers asking them to implement call-blocking services and help tackle caller ID spoofing practices immediately. Robocalls and telemarketing calls are the foremost consumer complaint received by the agency.
USTelecom, a trade industry group whose members include AT&T, Verizon Communications Inc. and CenturyLink Inc., also on the task force, is supporting the effort. “USTelecom agrees with the FCC and others that an industry-wide effort involving all stakeholders is needed to combat the problem,” the group said in an Aug. 19 statement.
Wheeler and AT&T Inc. Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson called for a broad-based approach, drawing on the expertise of the entire telecom industry supply chain, to find solutions to end unwanted calls. Thirty-three companies are part of the strike force, including AT&T, Apple Inc., Comcast Corp., Nokia Oyj, Qualcomm Inc. and Windstream Holdings Inc.
“This is going to require more than individual company initiatives and one-off blocking apps,” Stephenson said. “Robocallers are a formidable adversary, notoriously hard to stop,” he added.
Stephenson, who is leading the task force, noted industry members have already committed to several measures to block robocalls, including an effort to evaluate whether to create a “do not originate” list which would work to block calls made from anywhere in the world via voice-over-internet-protocol (VoIP) technology.
The push to curb fraudsters using caller ID spoofing technology might also help speed the transition to IP-based phone networks, another effort being made by the FCC and the telecom industry.
AT&T and USTelecom said regulatory policies leading to a faster transition to IP-based networks would help with the robocall effort.
“Caller ID authentication works best with IP-based networks and services. And a traditional voice network limits automated technological fixes,” AT&T said in a July 6 blog post on the issue.
Many telecom carriers are eager to retire legacy copper-line networks in favor of fiber optic cable and other infrastructure to support IP networks, which allow for higher-capacity broadband, more efficient and flexible operation and lower maintenance costs. Critics of the transition worry that telecom service providers will abandon older network infrastructure if they are freed of legacy phone regulations.
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Text of Wheeler's remarks is at http://src.bna.com/hTg.
Copyright © 2016 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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