Wheeler Calls on Telcos to Offer Free Robocall Blocking

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By Kyle Daly

July 22 — Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler is calling on phone companies to offer call-blocking services to subscribers who want to put a stop to automated robocalls, he said in a July 22 blog post.

Wheeler sent letters to the CEOs of top wireless and wireline phone companies, including AT&T Inc., Verizon Communications Inc., Sprint Corp. and T-Mobile US Inc., asking them to immediately begin offering free call-blocking services to consumers, he said.

He asked intermediary carriers that connect robocallers to consumer phone service providers to help facilitate the offering of call-blocking options and also called for carriers and standards bodies to speed up the development of standards to prevent caller ID spoofing — technology that makes it appear a call is coming from a different number than is actually being used.

Wheeler asked all the companies he contacted to respond within 30 days with “concrete, actionable solutions to address these issues,” he said.

The FCC has no immediate plans to make the development and offering of call-blocking services compulsory, spokeswoman Kim Hart told Bloomberg BNA. According to copies of the letters obtained by Bloomberg BNA, Wheeler said “it will be necessary to explore other solutions” to bring call-blocking options to market if carriers don't voluntarily offer them to subscribers.

In addition to AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile, Wheeler contacted, among other companies, U.S. Cellular Corp., CenturyLink Inc., Frontier Communications Corp., Level 3 Communications Inc. and Bandwidth.com.

CTIA, the largest U.S. wireless trade association, “look[s] forward to working with the FCC” to prevent unwanted calls and texts, CTIA General Counsel Tom Power said in a statement.

FCC Continues to Weigh Robocall Action

The FCC is mulling a proposal to clarify rules pertaining to robocalls made to collect federally backed student loan or mortgage debt. The agency voted 4-1 last year to allow consumers to revoke their consent to receive robocalls from a given caller (2015 TLN 11, 7/1/15).

To contact the reporter on this story: Kyle Daly in Washington at kdaly@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Keith Perine at kperine@bna.com

For More Information

Wheeler's blog post is available at: http://src.bna.com/g19

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