We're 90 per cent sure the FCC's robocall kill plan won't have the slightest impact

Dumb and dumber, or the lightest of light touches?


Motivation – follow the...

So why are the phone companies dragging their feet? You won't believe this but the answer is money.

It costs phone companies money to install a blocking system right across their network, and they lose money generated by the billions of fake calls. Some phone companies have reportedly considered offering the service for an additional fee (Nomorobo charges $1.99 a month for its iOS app).

But they are wary about opening that door and having a regulator like the FCC telling them to make it free, or getting involved in an industry race where one company offers it for free to attract customers and effectively forces everyone to have to do likewise.

Will the FCC bring its regulatory powers to bear on the issue? Probably not. Pai has made great play since taking over as chair about how the FCC under him will be hands-off, or "light touch," as he likes to call it.

He has used this argument to justify killing off and shutting down many of the rules developed under his predecessor covering, in particular, net neutrality. It's going to be difficult for Pai to come down hard on phone companies for failing to block spoofed calls if he wants to maintain this philosophy.

Instead, what a "light touch" FCC looks like is one that puts out seemingly endless calls for public input on what should happen – even when everyone knows what needs to happen and why it isn't happening.

As well as "seeking input" on the plan to block fake numbers, the FCC also wants to know people's ideas about "how to address spoofed calls from international locations" and it is "asking how to create a safe harbor for providers from FCC call completion rules when they rely on objective criteria to identify and block calls that are highly likely to be fraudulent, illegal, or spoofed robocalls."

Back in October, when the industry-led Robocall Strike Force held its second meeting, then-FCC chair Tom Wheeler lambasted it for going too slowly in finding solutions. He pushed for another meeting in six months where he wanted to hear some real answers.

This week, it is six months later. There's no meeting of the strike force, but we do have an op-ed from the FCC chair and a proposal to ask what people think about a solution that won't work.

You don't get much more light touch than that. ®

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