AT&T CEO to Chair Robocalling Strike Force

By Michelle Maisto  |  Posted 2016-07-26 Print this article Print

Following a call to action by the FCC, AT&T announced its CEO will chair a strike force designed to obliterate robocalls.

AT&T will lead an "industry strike force" to address the problem of robocalling, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler announced in a July 25 statement.

In a July 22 blog post, Wheeler shared that he'd written to the CEOs of the major wireless and wireline phone companies and called on them to offer call-blocking services to customers at no additional cost.

"The Commission has done its part, making clear that phone companies face no legal barriers to helping consumers block unwanted calls with the use of robocall blocking technology," Wheeler wrote. "Today, we urge carriers to step up to take that responsibility."

AT&T responded by committing to making robocall-blocking technology available to its customers, Wheeler said in the July 25 statement, adding that he was "gratified" by AT&T's proactive stance and that solving the problem will require "collective action by the industry."

In a blog post the same day, Bob Quinn, head of AT&T's Federal Regulatory group, likewise called on the entire communications industry to solve the problem, saying call blocking alone isn't enough.

"Network providers, handset makers and device OS developers alike—must work together to ensure that only calls from legitimate callers and those associated with legitimate and unaltered numbers are sent to consumer phones," wrote Quinn.

For these reasons, he added, AT&T CEO Randall Stephens has agreed to chair a Robocalling Strike Force, which will accelerate the development and adoption of robocall-prevention tools and provide recommendations to the FCC about the role the government might play.

Further, Quinn continued, "AT&T will conform to emerging IETF and ATIS VOIP caller ID verification standards as soon as they are available; AT&T will investigate and adopt, where viable, SS7 solutions associated with VOIP calls, in accordance with adopted verification standards; AT&T will work together with the industry, the standards bodies and through the new task force on a 'Do Not Originate' list for the purpose of identifying suspicious calls originating outside of the United States; and AT&T will facilitate efforts by other carriers to adopt call blocking technologies on their networks."

Chuck Hamby, executive director of Corporate Communications at Verizon, told eWEEK, in regard to Wheeler's request for cooperation: "Verizon stops many robocalls before they can get to customers. We monitor our networks to detect spikes in suspicious calls, and then work with law enforcement and with other telephone companies to shut down illegal robocallers. We also support federal legislation to better go after the source—the scammers who make these calls."

Representatives from T-Mobile and Sprint referred eWEEK to the CTIA.

"Unwanted calls and texts are a consumer issue the wireless industry works hard to address and we look forward to working with the FCC to help address this challenge together," said Tom Power, senior vice president and general counsel at CTIA.

Consumers being harassed by robocalls—prerecorded messages generally selling something, or trying to scam people out of money by pretending to represent a legitimate organization—can sign up for the National Do Not Call Registry. Consumers Union reports that robocall scams cost Americans approximately $350 million a year.

Three types of calls are exceptions, however: those from political parties, nonprofits and charities, and legitimate survey organizations not selling anything.

Plus, as AT&T's Quinn noted in a July 6 blog post on the robocalling problem, "Bad guys and fraudsters don't pay attention to the Do Not Call list."


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