FCC Hosts Second Meeting of Robocall Strike Force; Industry Delivers Short and Long-Term Solutions

Posted by: AT&T Blog Team on October 26, 2016 at 1:56 pm

Today, AT&T committed to immediately start working with vendors and to be ready for carrier interoperability verification by the 4th quarter of 2017. These standards will make it easier to mitigate robocalls and go after the bad actors. AT&T fully intends to meet this aggressive timeline.  

The following are remarks by AT&T Chairman & CEO Randall Stephenson as prepared for delivery at the second meeting of the Robocall Strike Force at the Federal Communications Commission on October 26, 2016.


Thank you, Melissa. Good afternoon, everyone.

Sixty days ago, Chairman Wheeler issued a challenge to us to figure out how to stop both illegal and unwanted robocalls…It is the FCC’s number one consumer complaint.

So, we brought together 30 representatives from every corner of the communications ecosystem – network operators, device manufacturers, and OS developers – And I want to thank the members of the strike force. What you have accomplished in just two months is impressive.

And we should also thank the federal law enforcement agencies and the National Association of Attorneys General for working with us to quickly identify illegal robocallers and shut them down.

These steps are just the beginning. But as Melissa told you, they are already having a significant impact. Obviously, it goes without saying that we still have a lot of work left to do.

To that end, our members are working with the standards bodies to keep building on our progress. And each of the Strike Force members has committed to provide the resources needed to continue fighting this problem. One of the stickier issues will be figuring out an economically viable path to sustain these solutions going forward.

Chairman Wheeler and the Commissioners…Thank you for convening this strike force. We could not have gotten this ball rolling so quickly without your leadership. Working with the Commission and others, I am confident we will develop the tools to make this issue a thing of the past.

Thank you.

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A Personal Note

Posted by: Joan Marsh on October 3, 2016 at 1:39 pm

This week, I am privileged to take over leadership of AT&T’s Federal Regulatory team in AT&T’s DC office. I take the reins from my mentor, boss and friend, Bob Quinn, as he rises to succeed Jim Cicconi, who leaves us for the next chapter of his life and a richly-deserved retirement.

This opportunity comes to me at an important inflection point for our company, our industry and our country. We are on the precipice of a Presidential election that will, in all events, herald change during a time when communications companies are increasingly scrutinized through the lens of a dated regulatory code that is more and more untethered from the realities of today’s modern networks. We have moved well beyond trying to fit a square regulatory peg into a round regulatory hole to fundamental questions about whether pegs and holes are an adequate regulatory framework at all.

While I don’t know what issues will dominate the regulatory stage next year, I plan to proceed in my new role consistent with the high standards established by Jim and Bob – to engage in honest and fact-based debate, to listen in good faith to opposing viewpoints and to seek consensus wherever it can be found. Indeed, my many years of experience in DC teaches that the best solutions are often found not in the throes of a regulatory battle, but instead through collaboration and reasoned discussions with those most impacted by regulatory shifts. It was through collaboration that we unlocked the value of the WCS band that had been mired for a decade in regulatory limbo, that we found a workable and effective framework for improving wireless 911 location accuracy and that we resolved long-standing disputes around interoperability.

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FCC Hosts first Robocall Strike Force Meeting; AT&T’s Stephenson to Chair Industry-Led Group

Posted by: AT&T Blog Team on August 19, 2016 at 9:50 am

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.

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Answering the Call on Robocalling

Posted by: Bob Quinn on July 25, 2016 at 12:15 pm

Last week, AT&T’s Chairman and CEO, Randall Stephenson, received a letter from Chairman Wheeler addressing the robocalls that continue to plague our industry and our customers.  AT&T agrees that decisive action is needed. Indeed, AT&T has separately called for the development of comprehensive and industry-wide solutions to address these unwanted, illegal and often fraudulent calls.

As the letter noted, telecommunications providers must play a vital role in attacking the robocalling problem and AT&T is prepared to take a leadership position in the industry in the development of comprehensive solutions. We currently allow many of our customers to block calls using black-listing software like Nomorobo and we are committed to providing our customers with the best blocking tools available for use with their knowledge and consent.

But call blocking alone will not address the problem as robocallers continue to develop ways to evade established filters and black lists. To effectively stem the tide of these calls, the communications industry – network providers, handset makers and device OS developers alike – must work together to ensure that only calls from legitimate callers and those associated with legitimate and unaltered numbers are sent to consumer phones.

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Robocalls: A Problem We All Need To Solve

Posted by: Bob Quinn on July 6, 2016 at 3:06 pm

You’re trying to sit down to dinner, but the phone won’t stop ringing. And it’s not friends, family or the office. It’s another unwanted recorded call pitching you a product you don’t want. Or, worse, attempting to scam you with, say, a phony tax bill. The same technology that allows you to stay connected with friends and family on the internet also has made it easier for illegal communications to flourish, including unwanted and illegal robocalling.

We’re working hard to develop tools to shut down these calls. But this is an industry-wide problem because any call from one person to another usually touches the networks of multiple companies. Which is why we’re calling for a comprehensive, industry-wide approach to address unwanted and illegal robocalls. We’re encouraging the deployment of new technology along with increased law enforcement involvement and prosecution of offenders to deal with the particularly troubling issue of illegal calls.

I am on the Do Not Call list. Why do I receive any unwanted telephone marketing calls?

Since 2003, Americans have been able to opt out of receiving most telemarketing calls by putting their phone numbers on the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) National Do Not Call Registry. But there are important exceptions for some organizations: calls from political parties, campaigns and candidates; calls from non-profits and charities; calls from legitimate “survey” organizations because they are not offering to sell anything to consumers; and calls from companies with which you have done or sought to do business. Any of those organizations are permitted to call you even though you are on the Do Not Call list. In addition, bad guys and fraudsters don’t pay any attention to the Do Not Call list.

What is a robocall?

If the phone rings and a recorded message is on the other end, you are receiving a robocall. In 2009, the FTC established new rules prohibiting most prerecorded or automated calls unless the caller had the consumers’ prior written approval. Thus, if you haven’t given your written permission to receive that call, the call is illegal and very often being made to perpetrate fraud.  Autodialers are now commonly used to initiate thousands of phone calls a minute for a very low cost.  And as federal regulators have discovered, tracking and stopping these calls is extremely challenging.  Many originate overseas; we estimate that at least 50% of these calls use caller ID info that is spoofed to look like a friendly or local caller; and once caught, many fraudsters simply change their corporate identity and resume illegal operations on a new network or with a new caller identity. But as with the Do Not Call list, there are exceptions here, too, including exemptions for political parties and candidates; emergency alerts; and pending rules that would permit the federal government (and certain government contractors) to use robocall technology to contact you regarding federal debts or federally guaranteed debts (i.e., tax bills, student loans).

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