back to article Hours before Congress backs robocall blocking law, guess what the FCC boss suddenly decides?

On Wednesday morning, after years of actively ignoring demands that phone companies be made to block robocalls by default, the head of America's telecoms regulator had a sudden change of heart. "Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai is proposing bold action to help consumers block unwanted robocalls," announced …

  1. Shadow Systems Silver badge

    Dear Mr. Pai. Too little, too late, too bad.

    No more weaseling your way out of doing your damned job, the politicians have heard the uproar from the angry mob of peasants you claim to protect.

    Not only are you not protecting us, you've been screwing us over at every turn.

    We've had enough & now we'll be voting on the non voluntary laws that will force your corporate sock puppet masters (because they've obviously got their hands up your arse to their elbow) to get with the program.

    1. DougS Silver badge

      Robocalls have got worse just in the last couple months

      Maybe it was just happenstance, but now I'm getting a couple a day - mostly the ones where they say you will have legal action against you if you don't respond but don't even use your name so a pretty poor attack. Maybe they heard that the FCC has been looking into it and figure they should go all out now before they get blocked.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Dear Mr. Pai. Too little, too late, too bad.

      Past the elbow. They're to the shoulder, yanking on the vocals.

  2. JohnFen Silver badge

    More BS

    ""If this decision is adopted, I strongly encourage carriers to begin providing these services by default – for free – to their current and future customers."

    So, the FCC is not requiring telecoms to offer this at all, whether or free or otherwise. He's merely "encouraging" it. It sounds like just another variation on the same refrain we've been hearing all along.

    This doesn't seem like it would change much, if anything. It's basically telling the telecoms "you can make less money if you want to".

    1. DontFeedTheTrolls Silver badge
      Headmaster

      Re: More BS

      "You could block those calls that make you money, but there is an opportunity to make money blocking those calls"

  3. Rol Silver badge

    Missing the opportunity

    The industry should've taken the lead by redirecting robocalls to a recorded message advising their use of such systems...blah de blah blah, etc...and thus scored the obvious open goal of serving their customers needs while still collecting on the connection fees.

    True, the calls and thus the revenues would soon peter out, but who's to say the recorded message couldn't be hosted at premium rates?

    8 billion calls at $2 a piece is nothing to sniff at.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Missing the opportunity

      You can't redirect a call to a premium rate number. The cost of the call is based upon the number dialled, any redirection would have to be paid by the redirection service (usually the owner of the number originally dialled).

      Otherwise I could just redirect all my calls to a premium rate number that I own and profit.

      1. DontFeedTheTrolls Silver badge
        Go

        Re: Missing the opportunity

        Not quite redirection, but there was a bloke in the UK did similar to this.

        He registered a premium rate number anywhere that asked for his number, then he could spin out any marketing calls as long as he felt like getting paid.

    2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: Missing the opportunity

      8 billion calls at $2 a piece is nothing to sniff at

      Do cellphone users in the US still pay to *receive* calls? In just about every other market in the world you only pay to make calls..

      1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

        Re: Missing the opportunity

        I think you must have pissed off a CrazyOldDogMan to have gotten that downvote.....

  4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "The goal of this decision is, of course, to kill the Stop Robocall Act legislation by offering a self-regulatory alternative, and then find ways to wheedle out of the agreement once the threat of actual laws is gone."

    So the obvious line of action for the politicos is to realise that and push ahead anyway.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      We'll see how far the all government is bad m'kay party is willing to push it. Guessing not that far.

      1. JohnFen Silver badge

        Maybe.

        We're entering the election season, and the Senate is in play in terms of which party will control it. Robocalls are an issue that directly affects every voter, and is easy for them to understand. The Republicans may push for legislation on this just so that the Democrats can't make hay about it in their election campaigns.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          But I assume not the push poll robocalls they themselves love so much. See John McCain's (RIP) brown illegitimate kid in South Carolina primary that helped get W over the top.

          1. JohnFen Silver badge

            True. I fully expect that any legislation to restrict robocalls would have exemptions for opinion polling. That's just how politicians roll.

            1. Mi Tasol

              And, like Australia, scum (sorry I meant to type po-liar-tic-ians and po-liar-tic-al parties) will be exempt all the restrictions.

              Remember politics is a portmanteau word - one made by joining abbreviations of other words.

              In this case

              Po - slang for sh*thouse

              Liar - self expanitory

              Tics - blood sucking parasites

              Also remember the only person to go into parliament with honest intentions was Guy Fawkes - and you know what they did to him. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guy_Fawkes

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Surely Guy Fawkws was just blowing things up out of proportion ?

  5. Simon B-52

    Calibration of BS meters

    I often find the following to be a useful absolute 0dBFS reference signal when calibrating BS meters.

    "Ajit Pai is a decent and honourable man who carries out his duties without fear or favour."

    Please note: A 60dB or greater wideband BS attenuator should always be fitted to the front end of any consumer grade equipment that might be exposed to this signal. Operatives should always wear personal protective equipment to avoid severe risk of damage to faculties.

    1. Christoph Silver badge

      Re: Calibration of BS meters

      "And Ajit Pai is an honourable man"

    2. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

      Re: Calibration of BS meters

      "Ajit Pai is a decent and honourable man who carries out his duties without fear or favour."

      That's one of those standard polygraph control statements

  6. Mark 85 Silver badge

    So will the FCC suddenly allow "paid for the by consumer" call-blocking and beat Congress to the punch? And what of the CongressCritters? Will politicians still get their pass to robo-call voters at election time?

    1. JohnFen Silver badge

      "Will politicians still get their pass to robo-call voters at election time?"

      Nothing the FCC can do would restrict the ability of Congress to pass laws telling them what to do. Congress is the boss here -- it makes the laws that the FCC is required to implement.

      1. Jamie Jones Silver badge
        Unhappy

        They should go one step further, and get rid of Pai and his cronies.

        The FCC is meant to be for the people, not a citizen-paid lobby group for the corporations.

        They don't even try to hide their obvious biases anymore.

  7. Herby Silver badge

    Give the carriers (phone companies) a piece of the fines...

    If the phone companies had some of the fines imposed for not following the "do not call list", things might be more fruitful. Incentives work wonders for curing problems.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Give the carriers (phone companies) a piece of the fines...

      Except the noncompliant carriers are often international and outside the FCC'S jurisdiction. It's hard to deal with such rogue operators.

      1. A.P. Veening

        Re: Give the carriers (phone companies) a piece of the fines...

        It's hard to deal with such rogue operators.

        No, it isn't. If those carriers/operators can be identified for billing, they can also be identified for blocking. And once those carriers/operators can't fulfil their contractual obligations of connecting legal calls because of the blocking, they will either shape up pretty quickly or (involuntarily) get out of business.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: Give the carriers (phone companies) a piece of the fines...

          Bet you they CAN'T be identified for billing because they'they're using VOIP and/or hiding behind several degrees is separation and a rogue operator who can shuffle away any complaints through foreign sovereignty and red tape.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Give the carriers (phone companies) a piece of the fines...

            "Bet you they CAN'T be identified for billing because they'they're using VOIP"

            doesn't matter, ss7 signalling will have data about the source, all you have to do is threaten forced disconnect of any interconnects carrying spam, that would be very costly to the network that is sourcing the spam as it would cut all profits.

            This would then force legitimate telco's to cut off the bad ones.

            (at the moment the ligitimatish telco's don't care as they make a profit off the bad ones anyway)

            It's actually very easy to do, you can even give consumers very easy reporting methods, that could then trigger auto-reviews/blocks

          2. Swarthy Silver badge
            Boffin

            Re: Give the carriers (phone companies) a piece of the fines...

            If they can't be identified for billing, then their calls don't get connected. No corporate entity does free work (counting tax deductions, "good will" advertising, and "brand-name recognition" as having monetary value - a corporate accountant can give you dollar figures for each). Hell, they try not to do work unless they can get paid 2+ times for it; even if it's not work, they still won't do it for free.

            Lets say, for a worst-case example, Scams 'R' Us, based out of Russia, uses a dodgy VOIP provider to connect to Tata Docomo in India, which routes the call through Bouygues in France, who directs the call to Verizon in the US. Verizon bills Bouygues, who bills Tata, who bills the VOIP provider, who bills SRU (possibly as part of their subscription). Bouygues may not tell Verizon where the call originated, but they sure as hell know who to charge. If most of the calls coming into Verizon from Bouygues are scam/nuisance/robocalls, then Verizon could tell them to clean up who they accept calls from, or their rates will increase they will stop connecting those calls. Bouygues tells Tata the same, Tata may well drop the dodgy VOIP provider, or bill them extra, which would raise the price of Scams 'R' Us's subscription, possibly making them uneconomical as a scammer.

            To restate: If they can be identified for billing, they can be identified for blocking.

            1. Charles 9 Silver badge

              Re: Give the carriers (phone companies) a piece of the fines...

              Then explain "bulletproof hosting". If tel cos can attack rogue operators through their billing contracts, why can't upper tier ISPs (who ALWAYS meter) attack bulletproof hosts through their peering contracts? Their MOs are practically identical (and may well be one and the same if using VoIP).

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Give the carriers (phone companies) a piece of the fines...

          I explained this to UK politicians.

          They asked BT, who then pretended it could not be done...(it would have reduced profit!!!!)

          BT lied, and politicians don't give a shit.

  8. Sandtitz Silver badge
    Facepalm

    "Drain the swamp", it was proclaimed

    Slightly less than half of the electorate believed that shit.

    1. Garymrrsn

      Re: "Drain the swamp", it was proclaimed

      A leech would never drain a prime habitat.

    2. VikiAi Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: "Drain the swamp", it was proclaimed

      But they did - they drained it right into DC

      1. georgezilla

        Re: "Drain the swamp", it was proclaimed

        Nope. They just brought in bigger alligators.

        That way the swamp gets to stay the same size but the bigger alligators make it look smaller.

      2. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Re: "Drain the swamp", it was proclaimed

        Well, DC was built on a swamp.

  9. mildy bemused

    Focusing the mind

    Similar thing happened with California's Consumer Privacy Act. After years of fruitless discussions between legislators and our local tech companies (!) the state legislator acted almost overnight when a ballot initiative was headed for the ballot at the next election. In California, ballot measures aka propositions become law but are much more difficult to change that legislation coming out of Sacramento. While the tech companies did not oppose the act, they've embarked on a campaign to have it watered down.

    Good description at https://privacylaw.proskauer.com/2018/07/articles/data-privacy-laws/the-california-consumer-privacy-act-of-2018/

  10. GrapeBunch Bronze badge
    Coat

    As American as awful Π

    This guy is an insult to pie. He's even an insult to agitprop.

    Mine's the one with 3, exactly three, arms. Rounding error, my arms!

  11. dalethorn

    "In a battle between good and evil, evil usually wins, unless good is very, very careful." -- Dr. McCoy, Star Trek orig. series.

  12. DrM
    FAIL

    Embelished

    <emb> Pai responded, “Many Federal agencies reduce operational costs by letting an industry test and regulate itself under careful oversight. The FAA would be a prime example.” </emb>

  13. Twilight

    I'm just shocked that Pai is making it even more obvious that he's just a shill for big telecom. Okay, not really - he's made it pretty obvious even before he became commissioner.

    As the article notes, this is the standard industry (any industry) practice when they have a shill in a key office - throw up some nearly useless "rules" that later get watered down even more in order to avoid any actual laws being passed that might interfere with profits.

  14. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge
    Coat

    Money talks.

    Mix that with politics, and you get good reasons for torches and pitchforks.

    Mine's the one with a flamethrower.

  15. Voidstorm
    WTF?

    Just looked up...

    the phrase "Regulatory Capture" in a dictionary and the entry said...

    "See FCC"

    /LOL

  16. Wellyboot Silver badge

    T&Cs change incoming.

    T&Cs Page 94 para b sub-sec ii - You consent to our automated systems calling you to resolve complaints and any other situation deemed necessary.

    Cynical moi?

    1. Jim Andrakakis
      Pint

      Re: T&Cs change incoming.

      Only a tiny little bit. A contract, whatever its wording, cannot cancel out a law.

      But of course, the devil is in the details. It depends very much on what, exactly, the law says. And big companies have a lot of lawyer power to try and find whatever workaround they can.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Completely unqualified for the job

    I can understand why Ajit Pai lives and works in the US.

    If a geriatric racist gibbering gibbon can become president, then Ajit can be Chairman of the FCC!

    If Ajit worked in India, the best job he would get in any technology related company or entity, is Chai Wallah.

    No disrespect intended to gibbons (gibbering or otherwise) or those who prepare and/or deliver tea for a living!

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just fine the last carrier

    Here's an idea. They say they can't ID the source? Fine the costumer's provider then. Somehow, I think "impossible" will soon become "possible" when your phone provider gets fines for robot calls. They'll now be able to ID who originated the call super easy I bet, just so they can pass the fine along.

  19. Uncle Ron

    The People of the United States Have Lost Their Government

    The government of the United States is now owned by corporations, industry groups, lobbying groups, and by extension, the far right wing of the Republican Party. The Supreme Court, and much of the Federal Court system, does not reflect the rule of law, or the will of the people. Partisan and corporate-favoring decisions are being handed down in both civil and criminal actions. Our people have lost our government. We are no longer a majority-rule country. We now have a corrupt government at nearly all levels from the top to the states, counties and cities.

    The Executive Branch and it's cabal of moron advisors is aiding Russia against it's adversary China by engaging in a no-win economic war that will leave both the US and China weakened. It is not only the moron-in-chief Trump. He is a dolt who doesn't know or understand what he is doing. He's a psychopath. From Bolton to Pai to Kavanaugh to Miller--the whole lot of them--are sending the US straight to Hell. The US has lost it's government. It is now owned by ideological and partisan and corrupt and greedy morons. We are headed to economic war with China, and military war with Iran and Venezuela and maybe more.

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