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Written by: Mike Yang

Nearly three dozen technology companies have joined the anti-robocall strike force led by AT&T and spurred by the FCC, and the group will work together on technological and policy solutions to the robocall problem.
The Robocall Strike Force formed last month at the behest of FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, who called on carriers to take concrete steps to address the issue. Wheeler sent a letter in July to all of the major wired and wireless carriers, asking them to deploy free solutions to block robocalls for consumers and businesses.
“In regard to the Commission’s expectations that carriers respond to consumers’ blocking requests, I have sent letters to the CEOs of major wireless and wireline phone companies calling on them to offer call-blocking services to their customers now – at no cost to you,” Wheeler said last month.

“If we truly want to deal with this, the entire ecosystem has to work together.”

Shortly afterward, AT&T Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson said his company would lead a new strike force to develop solutions to the problem. On Friday, the FCC held the first meeting of the strike force, and Stephenson announced that more than 30 companies, including Google, Apple, Comcast, Microsoft, Sprint, and Verizon, have joined the strike force.
“The fact that we are all here speaks to the breadth and complexity of the robocall problem. This is going to require more than individual company initiatives and one-off blocking apps.  Robocallers are a formidable adversary, notoriously hard to stop.  And technology such as spoofing makes it easier for them to work around our various fixes and hide their tracks.  So far, we’ve all been coming at this problem piecemeal with limited success, because robocalls continue to increase,” Stephenson said in his comments at the meeting.
“This strike force will need to take a different approach. If we truly want to deal with this, the entire ecosystem has to work together – carriers, device makers, OS developers, network designers.  And don’t forget, regulators and lawmakers have a role to play.  We have to come out of this with a comprehensive play book for all of us to go execute.”
The strike force already has committed to several initiatives, including:

  • Conform to VOIP caller ID verification standards as soon as they are made available by the standards setting groups.
  • Adopt, if viable, SS7 solutions associated with VOIP calls.
  • Work together with the industry, including every company in this room, along with the standards setting bodies, to evaluate the feasibility of a “Do Not Originate” list.
  • Further develop and implement solutions to detect, assess and stop unwanted calls from reaching customers.
  • And finally, facilitate efforts by other carriers to adopt call-blocking technologies on their networks.

The group plans to report back to the FCC by Oct. 19 with preliminary results of its work.