Regulator requests phone companies to offer robocall blocking for free

Regulator requests phone companies to offer robocall blocking for free
© Greg Nash

A Democrat on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is pushing phone companies to provide robocall blocking at no extra cost to their customers following the agency’s decision to make it legal for the industry to filter out suspicious calls by default.

FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks wrote to every major phone carrier on Monday, including AT&T, asking for details on how they intend to implement call filtering technology.

“Carriers made clear to the Commission: they want to offer call blocking services to consumers by default,” Starks said in a statement. “My colleagues and I made clear to carriers: they should not charge consumers for these services. The Commission has acted. Now it is industry’s turn to put these new tools to work for consumers. I’m looking forward to learning the details of their plans to do so.”

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The FCC voted last week to clarify its regulations and allow phone companies to block suspicious calls in an effort to crack down on illegal robocalls and scammers.

The proposal passed unanimously but some criticized the agency for not going further by requiring the industry to offer such services for free.

“I think robocall solutions should be free to consumers. Full stop,” Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said last week. “I do not think that this agency should pat itself on the back for its efforts to reduce robocalls and then tell consumers to pay up.”

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, a Republican, has said that the proposal would save money for companies like Verizon and AT&T and that those savings could be passed on to consumers.

In his letters sent Monday, Starks asked for details on whether each company’s call blocking service would be free, when they plan to roll them out and how they will notify customers of changes. Starks gave the industry until July 10 to respond.