FCC to try to stop robocalls again

“We’ve been trying to reach you about your car’s extended warranty.”

There are, perhaps, few sentences that are more annoying when said over the phone. Robocalls and other forms of unsolicited sales calls are still rampant in this country. It’s been a decade since some of the first attempts to stop them, as I’ve reported several times.

That’s not to say it hasn’t gotten better. Many of us simply don’t answer calls from people not in our contact lists. Every cell carrier and several landline carriers have implemented the SHAKEN/STIR protocol to make sure that phone numbers aren’t being spoofed. Questionable calls are labeled “Spam risk” or “Potential Spam,” allowing us to just hang up. But the problem isn’t going away. It’s a problem, because it really has poisoned a whole generation against voice calling. The sociological implications of that could be huge.

Here’s the latest step

FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel has announced, according to Axios, that the commission will be taking action against international “gateway carriers” that let robocalls come through. Up until now, it was fairly easy to skirt anti-robocall rules. You just used an international service instead of a US cell carrier. Hopefully that loophole goes away.

This is part of a decade-long commitment to try to get rid of a problem that just won’t go away. Because phone calling is so inexpensive, robocallers can make their money back even if only one in 10,000 people takes them up on their offer.

But will it help?

Forgive me, dear readers, if I’m a bit cynical. It seems like nothing has stemmed the flood. And it doesn’t seem like anything will. E-mail spam has largely gone away because e-mail providers took on the problem, but robocalls seem to be harder to address. You can set your phone to only accept calls from people in your contacts, but that’s probably taking it too far.

It’s great that the FCC is trying to take action, but it does seem like every year some action is taken and it doesn’t make a lot of difference. You hear of these massive robocalling operations getting shut down and it doesn’t seem to make a bit of difference. New ones sprout up. The one thing they all have in common is a flagrant disregard of the “do-not-call” rules which were supposed to stop this sort of thing.

What would help at this point, since so many carriers report calls as potential spam, is to let your phone block those calls. In other words, your phone would know how your carrier identifies spam calls and automatically block them.

I’m not sure it would stop the most hardcore folks, but it would probably make a big difference. Something has to, because it’s as bad as it ever was in a lot of ways.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.