U.S. regulator demands companies take action to halt ‘robocalls’

Technology

FILE PHOTO – Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission Ajit Pai speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Maryland, U.S., February 23, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai on Monday wrote the chief executives of major telephone service providers and other companies, demanding they launch a system to combat billions of “robocalls” and other nuisance calls received monthly by American consumers.

In May, Pai called on companies to adopt an industry-developed “call authentication system” or standard for the cryptographic signing of telephone calls aimed at ending the use of illegitimate spoofed numbers from the telephone system. Monday’s letters seek answers by Nov. 19 on the status of those efforts.

The letters went to 13 companies including AT&T Inc (T.N), Verizon Communications Inc (VZ.N), T-Mobile US Inc (TMUS.O), Alphabet Inc (GOOGL.O), Comcast Corp (CMCSA.O), Cox Communications Inc, Sprint Corp (S.N), CenturyLink Inc (CTL.N), Charter Communications Inc (CHTR.O) and others.

YouMail, a company that blocks robocalls and tracks them, estimated there were 5.1 billion unwanted calls last month, up from 3.4 billon in April.

The FCC has taken a number of actions to try to deter robocalls or automated, prerecorded calls that regulators have labeled a “scourge.”

“We need call authentication to become a reality — it’s the best way to ensure that consumers can answer their phones with confidence. By this time next year, I expect that consumers will begin to see this on their phones,” Pai said.

“I am calling on those falling behind to catch up … If it does not appear that this system is on track to get up and running next year, then we will take action to make sure that it does.”

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democrat, earlier this year called on the FCC to set a deadline and noted “Canada went ahead and set a 2019 deadline to put this technology in place. We should be doing the same as our neighbors to the north.”

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Dan Grebler and Tom Brown

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