Not so long ago, the federal government was promising that robocallers soon would be on the run.
As we have reported, federal legislation passed in 2019 was supposed to silence a large percentage of such pesky calls.
Before then-President Donald Trump signed that law — the Pallone-Thune Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence Act — Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts said in a statement:
“I hope the President quickly signs this bill into law so that families can enjoy a new year of family calls instead of robocalls.”
As almost anyone with a cellphone now knows, despite enactment of the Pallone-Thune TRACED Act, the dream vision of quieter phones never came to pass. Instead — as we reported in late 2021 — spam calls and texts are surging once again.
So, what went wrong?
The Pallone-Thune TRACED Act gave the Federal Communications Commission the ability to require phone service providers to implement technology to authenticate callers — that is, to confirm they actually are calling from the number that shows up on your caller ID.
The FCC now mandates that phone providers use standards known as STIR/SHAKEN to authenticate callers, which “add digital signatures to calls, verifying that they’re coming from the number on the caller ID,” according to a Vox report by Sara Morrison. (“STIR/SHAKEN” is short for “Secure Telephone Identity Revisited and Signature-based Handling of Asserted Information Using toKENs,” according to the FCC.)
However, Vox quotes Jim Dalton, CEO of the robocall prevention software company TransNexus, as saying that many providers have yet to implement this technology. According to Morrison’s report:
“The FCC’s deadline to implement STIR/SHAKEN was June 30, 2021, but only for large providers, like Verizon and AT&T. Companies with fewer than 100,000 subscribers have until June 30, 2023. STIR/SHAKEN also doesn’t yet work on calls that come from or pass through older networks (aka wires). Dalton described this as not a ‘loophole’ but a ‘loopchasm,’ perhaps even a ‘loopcanyon.'”
Even if the new standards are fully implemented, it may not end robocalls as many had hoped. As we reported in October, RoboKiller, an app that blocks spam calls and text messages, said that STIR/SHAKEN is “unlikely to stop the spam call problem on its own — even with full adoption.”
If you are an incurable optimist, it is worth noting that the FCC recently decided to move up the STIR/SHAKEN compliance deadline for all providers to June 30 of this year. Vox reports that an FCC official told the publication that “the agency expects we’ll see a significant decrease in bad calls after that.”
If you are skeptical — and at this point, we can hardly blame you — take matters into your own hands by applying the tips in: