In what is likely a smokescreen intended to distract from the FCC planning a vote to destroy net neutrality, the FCC has issued additional rules which permit telecoms to block robocalls, specifically those which use Caller ID spoofing to impersonate phone numbers that do not exist, are not allocated by telecoms to subscribers, or are inbound-only phone numbers— in other words, allocated to systems which are unable to make outgoing calls.
The FCC report cites the proliferation of robocalls with spoofed Caller ID data indicating that the calls originate from the IRS, claiming that back taxes are owed, in an attempt to gain personal information for use in identity theft. The report also authorizes the automatic blocking of calls with Caller ID information which purports to be from 911 or 411, as well as numbers which use unassigned area codes, numbers which do not have the correct number of digits, and unassigned repeating numbers like 000-000-0000. Additionally, robocalls from foreign countries that also use the NANP are subject to these rules.
The rules, which go into effect immediately, allow telecoms to automatically block robocalls without any opt-in mechanism from subscribers.
WASHINGTON, November 16, 2017—The Federal Communications Commission today
approved new rules to protect consumers from unwanted robocalls, allowing phone companies to
proactively block calls that are likely to be fraudulent because they come from certain types of
Unwanted calls, including illegal robocalls, are the top consumer complaint at the FCC, with
more than 200,000 received annually. Some private analyses estimate that U.S. consumers
received approximately 2.4 billion robocalls per month in 2016. Advancements in technology
make it cheap and easy to make robocalls and to “spoof” Caller ID information to hide the
caller’s true identity.
For example, perpetrators have used IRS phone numbers that don’t dial out to impersonate the tax
agency, informing the people who answer that they are calling to collect money owed to the U.S.
government. Such calls appear to be legitimate to those who receive them and can result in fraud
or identity theft.
To combat these scams, the new rules approved today expressly authorize voice service providers
to block robocalls that appear to be from telephone numbers that do not or cannot make outgoing
calls, without running afoul of the FCC’s call completion rules.
As a result of today’s action, voice service providers will be allowed to block calls purporting to
be from a phone number placed on a “do not originate” list by the number’s subscriber. They
will also be allowed to block calls purporting to be from invalid numbers, like those with area
codes that don’t exist, from numbers that have not been assigned to a provider, and from numbers
allocated to a provider but not currently in use.
To minimize blocking of lawful calls, today’s Report and Order encourages voice service
providers that elect to block calls to establish a simple way to identify and fix blocking errors.
The rules also prohibit providers from blocking 911 emergency calls.
Action by the Commission November 16, 2017 by a Report and Order, and Further Notice of
Proposed Rulemaking (FCC 17-151). Chairman Pai, Commissioners Clyburn, O’Rielly, and Carr
approving. Commissioner Rosenworcel approving in part and dissenting in part. Chairman Pai,
Commissioners Clyburn, O’Rielly, Carr, and Rosenworcel issuing separate statements.