Those robocalls that interrupt dinner or make your phone ring during an important business meeting could soon be coming to an end.
This week, the Federal Communications Commission voted to give wireless carriers the power to automatically block unwanted robocalls for all customers. As CNN Business reported, the move is meant to combat a rise in scam phone calls that deliver pre-recorded messages. As the report noted, the vote will allow wireless carriers to carry over the existing technology that blocks these calls from landlines using an algorithm and network scanning to determine calls that are not legitimate.
Under the new rule, all of these calls would be automatically blocked, but customers would still have the option to opt-out if they wanted to see all the calls they receive. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said the move to combat robocalls was a bipartisan issue.
“There is one thing in our country today that unites Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, socialists and libertarians, vegetarians and carnivores, Ohio State and Michigan fans: It is that they are sick and tired of being bombarded by unwanted robocalls,” said Pai. “My message to the American people today is simple. We hear you, and we are on your side.”
There were still some unanswered questions about the new technology, including whether some or all wireless carriers would choose to use it.
There had already been efforts underway to block the 48 billion robocalls placed in the United States last year, which The Verge noted was an increase of more than 20 billion from the previous year. The report noted that half of all calls placed last year were robocalls, prompting lawmakers to demand a solution.
Phone service providers had presented the technology known as STIR/SHAKEN, which The Verge noted is short for Secure Telephone Identity Revisited and Signature-Based Handling of Asserted Information Using Tokens. This technology uses digital certificates to determine when a call was being placed with a “spoofed” number — one that looks like it is coming from a legitimate phone number or even one from a local area code, but in fact, originates from a robocall center.
But experts noted that the technology alone would not be able to address all robocalls. Some real scams would still slip through the system, though the FCC has moved to help people with that as well with new rules that allowed carriers to block some unwanted calls, like tax scams.