According to the Wall Street Journal, the big three U.S. telecom companies have been pushing hard to delay the implementation of new U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations aimed at stemming the flow of illegal robocalls from overseas.
The new FCC rule would require foreign phone companies to step up their efforts to curb scammers or risk having their U.S.-bound calls blocked.
Set to go into effect on September 28, T-Mobile
The big three all claim to support the spirit of this particular effort and other efforts by the FCC efforts to head off illegal phone traffic. The Commission has changed rules to allow phone companies to screen out shady phone calls; they've mandated caller ID, and more than once, they've threatened to shut down companies that facilitate illegal robocalls.
But this new FCC rule would be a significant shift and would effectively give the FCC the authority to police phone companies overseas. Under the new rule, any phone company hoping to send a call to the U.S. through a U.S. number would have to register with the FCC after taking specific steps to mitigate unwanted calls.
The CTIA, a trade group representing U.S. telecom providers' interests, sent a letter back in December outlining the industry's concerns. The letter points out the risk U.S. citizens could have their calls screened out if they attempt to call home through an unapproved provider.
The industry is also concerned about what the rule might mean to the so-called chain of trust. The chain of trust refers to the concept that phone companies have trust each other to screen out illegal traffic as they transfer long-distance calls from one network to another. If one company in this chain doesn't comply with the FCC's mandates, then the call will have to be rerouted, resulting in roaming charges for U.S. citizens traveling overseas.
In addition, AT&T has pointed out that few, if any, foreign phone companies are ready for launch. Of the 50 foreign carriers surveyed by the telecoms giant, only one said it was taking the steps needed to register with the FCC.
"We would like to pause the process, reexamine what needs to be done, and continue to work on ways to create effective barriers to these incessant calls," Christ Oatway, Verizon associate general counsel, told the Wall Street Journal.
But not everyone is so sure such a pause is needed. David Frankel, chief executive at ZipDXLLC was the only one to counter the telecoms' delay request. "How many Americans are overseas in circumstances where they are trying to call home this way, versus how many people are being bombarded by these illegal calls?" Frankel asked the WSJ. "For the telecommunications carriers in this country to say, 'Let's press the pause button and kick the can'... I said, No!"
Time will tell whether the FCC will kick the can down the road sometime before September 28.