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Senators urge U.S. carriers to put an end to those annoying robocalls

senators end robocalls robotexts phone calling
Antonio Guillem/123RF
When even U.S. senators — specifically, Senators John Thune (R-S.D.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) — are sick and tired of robocalls and texts, you know there is a problem. As such, both senators called upon the CTIA — The Wireless Association, a lobby group that represents AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, and Sprint — to fight back against the annoying practice.

According to the letter, which was addressed to CTIA president and CEO Meredith Baker, the senators want the mobile phone industry to establish a reassigned numbers database — a collection of cell phone numbers that changed ownership. Thune and Markey demand that the industry explain how it might go about setting up the database, as well how companies can provide access to callers in order for them to determine if a number is still assigned to the original owner.

The senators also want to know if carriers can cover the costs of establishing and maintaining the database by charging calling parties fees for access.

Thune and Markey believe setting up such a database might help augment consumer protections established by the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) of 1991 by equipping businesses with the means to avoid making robocalls and texts to the wrong numbers. Generally speaking, the TCPA is meant to protect consumers from excessive phone solicitations and use of automated phone equipment.

“While the law has worked to successfully block countless unwanted calls, consumer complaints related to the TCPA remain among the most frequently received by the Federal Trade Commission and Federal Communications Commission (FCC),” reads the letter. “Consumers have made it clear they do not want their lives disrupted by calls and texts they have not consented to receive.”

Weirdly enough, even though the FCC gave the all-clear for carriers to offer their customers the means to block robocalls, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson sat down with The Dallas Morning News back in May and said the carrier does not have the “authority” to integrate robocall-blocking technology into its network.

“We don’t go in and just start discriminately blocking calls going to people without their permission, without the appropriate authority,” the executive said at the time. “I don’t want to be on the front page because we blocked somebody’s call, if it was a life-saving call of some kind, right?”

In a statement sent to Ars Technica, CTIA vice-president Brad Gillen said, “Unwanted calls and texts are a consumer issue the wireless industry works hard to address and we look forward to working with Senators Thune and Markey to help address this challenge together.”

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