FCC questions carriers on status of free robocall blocking tools

The Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday took its next steps to bat down robocalls, including letters to carriers about free robocall blocking tools.

In addition to writing to major phone companies and third-party developers, the FCC issued a Public Notice (PDF) seeking input on a variety of robocall-related questions and status updates on carrier efforts to help block unwanted calls.

Some key questions include whether phone companies are offering call blocking options to customers at no cost; how they’re measuring effectiveness; and protections in place to makes sure emergency services don’t experience interference, such as potential impacts on 911 services.

Comments are due by April 30 and will inform the FCC’s second Call Blocking Report, which details the state of products and services offered in the U.S.

RELATED: Wireless industry readies as STIR/SHAKEN deadline approaches

Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel also announced the launch of a new effort to track and itemize the FCC’s actions toward implementing the TRACED Act anti-robocall law, with a webage that outlines progress and steps taken.

“No one wants more unwanted robocalls in their life,” Rosenworcel said in a statement. “I’m proud that we continue to find new ways to use all the tools at our disposal to make it clear to illegal robocallers that their days are numbered. We want them to know that we’re advocating on behalf of consumers everywhere to put an end to these calls.”

Two cease-and-desist letters have also been sent by the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau to phone companies that are suspected of transmitting illegal robocall traffic. Those include Phonetime Inc, which does business as Tellza, and R Squared Telecom.

Robocalls are an issue that the FCC, U.S. government, and carriers have been trying to tackle, as illegal and unwanted calls bombard Americans. In 2020 roughly 45.8 billion robocalls were placed in the U.S., according to the YouMail Robocall Index, with an estimated 13.5 billion so far in 2021.

The FCC previously authorized carriers to automatically block illegal robocalls. And carriers have been working to implement the mandated STIR/SHAKEN caller ID authentication technology.

RELATED: Verizon starts verifying calls with other carriers using STIR/SHAKEN

T-Mobile in late March was the first in the wireless industry to have the protocol in place with all major U.S. network providers. STIR/SHAKEN helps ensure the phone number that shows up on caller ID is authentic and not being spoofed.

 The deadline for STIR/SHAKEN is coming up at the end of June.