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FCC directive gives mobile carriers more power to block robocalls

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May 15 (UPI) — Mobile phone carriers will have greater ability to block unwanted robocalls under a Federal Communications Commission measure introduced Wednesday.

Commissioners are expected to vote June 6 to allow carriers, including AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile, to automatically register customers for technology to block calls from telephone numbers not in the phones’ contacts lists. Users currently must opt in. If approved, the plan could go into effect by the end of the year.

The announcement came the morning FCC commissioners were scheduled to testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The commissioners expected questioning from legislators on the legality of robocalls and carriers’ efforts to reduce them. Reports indicate that over 46 billion computer-generated telephone calls were placed in the United States in 2018, a 46 percent increase over the previous year.

“Through the proposed declaratory ruling, phone companies will be permitted to detect and analyze robocalls and block them from bombarding consumers’ phones-similar to the way email providers block spam,” the FCC said. “Call blocking by default is an important distinction because many voice service providers offer call-blocking programs only on an opt-in basis.”

A bill proposed by Sens. John Thune, R-S.D., and Ed Markey, D-Mass., gives the FCC power to seek financial penalties from robocallers and provide law enforcement agencies with additional tools to combat unwanted and illegal calls. A majority in the Senate already approves of the legislation, and the House has prepared a similar bill.

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