The following are remarks by AT&T Chairman & CEO Randall Stephenson as prepared for delivery at the first Robocall Strike Force Meeting at the Federal Communications Commission on August 19, 2016:

Thank you, Chairman Wheeler. Good morning, everyone. I want to recognize the Chairman for proposing this strike force.  And I want to recognize and thank all the companies here today.  The 33 companies and organizations on the Strike Force represent the entire communications ecosystem.

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.

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.

While many people like to portray this as a simple issue to address, it isn’t. These unwanted calls span a wide range.  We have calls that are perfectly legal, but unwanted, like telemarketers and public opinion surveyors.  At the other end of the spectrum, we have millions of calls that are blatantly illegal.  They are violating the Do Not Call registry or, worse, trying to steal your money or identity.

This is where government has an important role to play. In parallel with technological solutions, we need our regulatory and law enforcement agencies to go after the bad actors.  Shutting down the bad guys is a necessary step, and a powerful example to others.

Our goal isn’t complicated: Stop unwanted robocalls.  Easy to say.  Hard to do.

At Chairman Wheeler’s request, members of the industry here today have committed to the following:

  • 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.

In preparation for today’s meeting, the technical experts representing our companies have had preliminary conversations about short- and longer-term initiatives. We will discuss those ideas today in more detail.  We have formed several subcommittees to tackle the issues and they will be led by technical experts from Apple, AT&T, Comcast, Level3, Nokia, Samsung, Sprint and Verizon.

The Robocalling Strike Force has committed to report back to the Commission by October 19 – 60 days from now. The report will include concrete plans to accelerate the development and adoption of new tools and solutions, and make recommendations to the FCC on the role government should play in this battle.

The fact that so many companies agreed, on such short notice, to be here today tells you how serious we are about finding a solution. I want to thank each of them for their leadership.  We’re ready to get to work.

 

Robocall Strike Force Members:

AT&T

Apple

ATIS

Bandwidth

Blackberry

British Telecom

CenturyLink

Charter

Cincinnati Bell

Comcast

Consumers Union

Cox

Ericsson

FairPoint

Frontier

Google

Inteliquent

Level 3

LG

Microsoft

Nokia

Qualcomm

Samsung

Silver Star

Sirius XM

Sprint

Syniverse

T-Mobile

U.S. Cellular

Verizon

West

Windstream

X5 Solutions

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