A dozen large telephone companies, including Verizon Communications Inc. and AT&T Inc. have reached an agreement with 50 states’ attorneys general as well as the District of Columbia attorney general to enact technology to block robocalls before they reach consumers.
The other companies signing the agreement are T-Mobile, CenturyLink Inc., Comcast Corp., Sprint Corp., Bandwidth Inc., charter Communications Inc., Consolidated Communications Crop., U.S. Cellular Corp. and Windstream Holdings Inc.
Consumers are often duped into answering phone calls because they appear to be from a local number or business.
New York attorney General Letitia James warned in a statement “The bad actors running these deceptive operations will soon have one call left to make: to their lawyers.”
Dare we hope the dinner hour — and other times when interruptions are neither wanted nor appreciated — can be devoted to the task at hand?
North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein is leading the effort that includes all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The deal will help protect consumers from receiving illegal robocalls and assist law enforcement in investigating and prosecuting bad actors.
Under the deal, which was announced earlier this month, the companies will launch the call-blocking technology at no cost to consumers and make other free anti-robocall devices and apps available to subscribers.
“By signing on to these principles, industry leaders are taking new steps to keep your phone from ringing with an unwanted call,” Stein said in a statement.
The telephone companies are under increasing pressure to protect consumers against the unwanted calls, which are a top source of complaints with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission.
According to a tally by YouMail Inc., a developer of software that blocks the calls, across the U.S., there were 48 billion robocalls last year, up from 31 billion in 2017.
In July, AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile US Inc. said they were making progress toward installing technology to authenticate calls so consumers would know if the call is coming from the person supposedly making it. The FCC has demanded the technology be in place by the end of the year.
In a statement, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said the agreements with the states “align with the FCC’s own anti-robocalling and spoofing efforts,” including the agency’s caller authentication standards.
“Few things can bring together policy leaders across the political spectrum like the fight against unwanted robocalls,” Pai said. “The FCC is committed to working together with Congress, state leaders and our federal partners to put an end to unwanted robocalls.”
The FCC has demanded that carriers adopt the system to digitally validate phone calls passing through the complex web of networks. The agency also has said that providers may block calls and cast a preliminary vote to require the digital authentication if carriers fail to install it by year’s end.
Like Simon & Garfunkel’s “Sound of Silence,” we can finally hope there is darkness at the end of the robocall tunnel.