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FCC Chairman Ajit Pai Takes Aim at the ‘Robocall’ Epidemic

A pedestrian checks her smartphone while crossing a Fifth Avenue intersection in New York on Thursday, July 23, 2015. A bill introduced in New Jersey would make it illegal for anyone to text and walk at the same time. Offenders could be fined $50 and/or 15 days in jail. No …
Richard Levine/Corbis via Getty Images

U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai took aim at telecommunications companies on Monday, demanding action to thwart excessive automated phone calls.

Pai is following up on an FCC letter sent to 13 companies in May, asking them to develop a “call authentication system” to prevent the use of “spoof” numbers used by spammers. This latest letter asks for an answer as to what the companies are doing to meet that requirement by November 19.

Among the companies addressed are AT&T, Verizon Communications, T-Mobile, Alphabet, Comcast, Cox Communications, Sprint, CenturyLink, Charter Communications, and Bandwith Inc. Many of those companies do not “have concrete plans to implement a robust call authentication framework,” according to FCC staff.

The framework is designed to “digitally validate the handoff of phone calls passing through the complex web of networks,” the FCC explained, “allowing the phone company of the consumer receiving the call to verify that a call is from the person supposedly making it.”

According to Reuters, “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.”

“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”

Pai warned that the FCC will “take action” if the system is not “on track to get up and running next year.”

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