The Federal Communications Commission recently closed one of the last big loopholes in its campaign against illegal robocalls, a campaign that happily achieved major goals authorized last year by Congress.
The FCC’s new decision authorizes the nation’s telecom providers to refuse to forward calls from “bad-actor upstream voice service providers that pass illegal or unwanted calls along to other providers, when those upstream providers have been notified (by the FCC) but fail to take action to stop these calls.”
For years, consumers have been plagued with robocalls, a large number of which originated overseas and used stolen telephone numbers to prevent back-tracing. The response to consumer demand for relief led to an extraordinary effort by state legal authorities working with major telecom providers and the FCC to identify and block scam calls. But the willingness of some companies to accept foreign robocalls and inject them into the nation’s telecom services has been a serious problem.
Congress responded in December with the TRACED Act, granting more powers to the FCC. In communications law, allowing providers to block certain services they would otherwise be required to accept is called a “safe haven.” Congress authorized the use of safe havens to block robocalls originating from overseas. It also gave the FCC the power to require telecom providers to use a program that can identify the accuracy of Caller IDs, and to block calls from stolen numbers.
In February, the FCC began notifying and warning companies that imported scam calls had to cease; in April, it required telecom providers to adopt the Caller ID verification program; and now it has authorized these providers to reject the business of the “bad actors.”
The FCC’s work on robocalls is a good example of government action to protect consumers at its best. As a result, it may soon be safe to answer phone calls again. That’s good news for us all.