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The Toledo Blade: End robocall pollution

Washington, September 3, 2019 | Mikayla Hall (202-225-6405)

In case you missed it, The Toledo Blade’s Editorial Board shared their perspective on the work Congressman Bob Latta (R-Bowling Green) and his colleagues are doing to combat illegal robocalls.

The Toledo Blade: End robocall pollution

August 29, 2019

It has been a long time coming for the nation’s phone companies to take action against individuals and others that abuse the telecommunications system to harass and even attempt to defraud the public.

Twelve of the country’s largest phone firms last week vowed to implement new technology to spot and block robocalls.

The companies aren’t doing this for altruism. They’re under an agreement brokered between the industry and all 50 states’ attorneys general to combat the rising torrent of unwanted telecom solicitation.

There was also legislation advancing in Congress that requires the phone providers to end the annoying and in some cases fraudulent phone calls that people receive. Americans were illegally spammed by unwanted phone callers 4.7 billion times in July alone.

The 12 carriers have agreed to implement call-blocking technology, make free anti-robocall tools available to consumers, and deploy a system that would label calls as real or spam. The program is aimed at spoofing, which is when an incoming call from a spammer looks like a local phone number because it has the user’s area code, often tricking the victim to answer and getting the victim to give up personal information.

Carriers who signed the pledge include AT&T, Comcast, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon, which had promised robocall protection, along with Bandwidth, CenturyLink, Charter, Consolidated, Frontier, U.S. Cellular, and Windstream.

A bill co-authored by U.S. Rep. Bob Latta (R., Bowling Green), the STOP Robocalls Act, was incorporated into the new Stopping Bad Robocalls Act that the House approved in July. It awaits action in the Senate. The original Latta bill, co-authored with Pittsburgh-area Rep. Mike Doyle, a Democrat, required telecom companies to make the default position that consumers opted-in to call-blocking, rather than requiring them to opt-out, which many failed to do. The rule was then adopted by the Federal Communications Commission.

The new bill requires telecom carriers to adopt a call-authentication tool and blocking service free of charge. It also extends the time in which the FCC has to catch illegal callers and allows the government to fine first-time offenders.

The industry is responding but Congress must keep up the pressure to end the pollution of the telecom spectrum by con artists. Spam calls need to end soon. Phone carriers should have automatic blocking systems, and consumers should be given the ability to block calls. And strong enforcement and stiff penalties should be put in place to discourage this telecom blight.

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