Beating Robocall 'Scourge' Won't Be Easy for FCC-Backed Strike Force

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2016-08-22 Print this article Print
Robocall Strike Force

Nomorobo has been successfully blocking robocalls for years, and in 2013, the company won the Federal Trade Commission's Robocall Challenge. While Nomorobo doesn't block robocalls to every type of phone (my copper wire landline is beyond help, apparently), it does work with VOIP and cell phone lines. So I asked the founder of Nomorobo, Aaron Foss, what he thought about the new Strike Force.

Foss said that the fact that the FCC was calling it a strike force and has enlisted the support of 30 communications and technology companies is important. "What I think has changed is the timing and what's available," he said. Foss noted that he's proved that it's possible to block robocalls, despite years of industry claims that it's impossible. "We've shown it can be done."

Foss also noted that only now are Apple and Google making it possible for apps on their respective mobile platforms to actually block calls. For example, he noted that iOS 10, the latest version of Apple's mobile operating system, will include support for call blocking.

However, to provide a more comprehensive solution, Nomorobo created an entire database of robocaller phone numbers that can be referenced as a way to block calls. He has also created a white-list database so that Nomorobo won't block calls that should go through, including calls from first responders, government entities, schools and the like.

Perhaps more important than his work in blocking robocalls are Nomorobo's vast databases of phone numbers used by robocallers and white-list numbers that are available to whomever comes up with a robocall blocking solution.

"That data has to come from somewhere," Foss said. "We can license the data."

He also suggested that if the industry players and the FCC really want to find a robocall blocking solution, they can talk to Nomorobo about their corporate experience. "They should leave it up to the professionals," he said.

The launch of the Strike Force means that something might actually be done to defeat what FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler calls the "scourge" of robocalls. Until now, the major carriers hid behind claims that the blocking of robocalls would be illegal and used that as an excuse not to do anything.

The FCC told the carriers a year ago that blocking robocalls was allowed, but still nothing happened. Now the FCC is holding their collective feet to the fire and also providing actual leadership.

Unfortunately, all of that is unlikely to eliminate robocalls, but it may reduce them and it may make the process sufficiently annoying for the robocallers and reduce their profits. But until the FCC and the industry find a way to eliminate the profits from robocalling, the scourge will continue indefinitely.



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