The fight against robocalls goes to a new level – US telecoms will limit unwanted activity

3 min

We will tell you how the fight against “telephone spam” is developing in the United States, what regulators have already achieved, and how they plan to consolidate their successes – further helping citizens fight off the growing flurry of unwanted calls with advertisements and fraudulent attempts to obtain funds during the crisis.

Unsplash / Ray W
Unsplash / Ray W

Long-term resistance

A couple of years ago, the Federal Communications Commission, FCC) took up an active fight against unwanted calls. Then the total number of robocalls was about 50 billion a year, so it was quite difficult to automate work with violators in this area. The FCC did not have the authority to comprehensively investigate complaints and find the real operators of gray telephone numbers and dummy PBXs that were used to make massive spam calls. In turn, the Ministry of Justice, which received cases of violations, could not cope with the analysis of tens of thousands of controversial situations, so the commission managed to collect less than 1% of the $ 200 million in fines.

Such a modest success of the regulator provoked a further increase in the number of robocalls, so the FCC, together with representatives of the US Congress, prepared a bill to expand the powers of the commission. In addition, its representatives asked the telecom companies to consider the implementation of SHAKEN / STIR, a protocol that allows callers to be identified even before the connection is established.

However, while there was discussion and formal procedures for the adoption of the law, unwanted robocalls managed to become the most common reason for complaints from citizens to the US Federal Trade Commission (Federal Trade Commission, FTC). Moreover, hundreds of thousands of such complaints were associated with increased extortion attempts, which, according to FCC experts, led to the theft of about $ 3 billion in private funds annually.

Unsplash / Devin Kaselnak
Unsplash / Devin Kaselnak

As soon as the so-called “Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence Act” was adopted and the commission gained expanded powers, work on the side of telecoms intensified. They took into account the recommendations that the FCC made to them earlier – T-Mobile, Sprint, Comcast and AT&T have begun to implement SHAKEN / STIR. But this process dragged on, and the positive dynamics in working with violators did not reach a noticeable level.

What is it this time

New demands The FCC boils down to directly limiting the number of calls made to the telephone numbers of US citizens by organizations. Moreover, both commercial and any other categories of companies. Now they will be able to call a separate civilian number up to three times a month. Plus, they will be required to provide the ability to refuse subsequent calls, and telecoms will ensure transparency of the entire process for potential proceedings on a complaint or request from a regulator.

In the latter case, we can talk about the actual identification of those who make calls, including to block malicious violators. This will also be done by service providers. Still their oblige independently verify that their networks and infrastructure are not being used in any unfair manner.

Unsplash / Engin Akyurt
Unsplash / Engin Akyurt

The Commission clarified that at this stage, telecoms should not automate the blocking process. For now, they should not concern unwanted calls, only illegal activities. Such moderation should be carried out by employees, plus – notify all parties to the process about the blocking or the course of the proceedings about the introduction of restrictions on calls.

What’s next

A request for identification and transparency of processes in the networks of telephone operators can contribute to the widespread adoption of SHAKEN / STIR. It will help customers of telecom companies to be sure that the actual number of the person making the call is really displayed on the screen of their smartphones, and regulators will be able to deal more effectively with violators. Such a “feature” today may be even more in demand than the annual updates of smartphones or online services of large technology companies.

As the example of the GDPR shows, similar practice can be adopted by regulators in other countries, where it is customary to focus on the US experience, or to adapt local laws.


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