AT&T Blames the FCC For Telco’s Inability to Block Robocalls


AT&T has decided the best course of action in response to the company’s refusal to block robocalls — is to blame the FCC. AT&T and other large mobile providers have been under fire for much of the year for their collective inability to block telemarketing robocalls. A campaign from Consumers Union has managed to collected more than 600,000 signatures in an attempt to ramp up pressure on AT&T, Verizon and others.

Speaking to AT&T’s hometown paper the Dallas Morning News, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson tried to claim that the company couldn’t block robocalls — because the FCC won’t let them.

“There will be rules around this,” said the CEO. “We don t go in and just start discriminately blocking calls going to people without their permission, without the appropriate authority. 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?

No, not right.

As the Consumerist’s Chris Morran deftly notes in a good rebuttal, there’s actually nothing in the FCC’s rules that prohibit the blocking of annoying robocalls. In fact, the FCC went out of its way last year to make it clear that phone carriers can employ robocall blocking technology with no repercussion from the regulator. And many companies, including Verizon and Time Warner Cable, did just that by giving customers integrated Nomorobo functionality.

ISPs like Sonic also applauded the rules at the time, CEO Dane Jasper stating that “until this decision last week, it was possible that our decision to offer this free feature would be challenged, so we appreciate the FCC s decision, and we thank the commissioners for their action on this issue.”

So why isn’t AT&T joining other companies and doing more to block robocalls? An AT&T representative tries to tell the Consumerist that it’s because there are “no technologies currently available that can accurately distinguish illegal robocalls from legitimate calls,” but that doesn’t appear to be a problem for other providers. This also seems to ignore the fact that AT&T offers a robocall blocking service for landline customers for $8.50 per month.

Granted this is AT&T, a company that has been busted for making bills intentionally harder to understand to help aid crammers and scammers, while also being fined for turning a blind eye to IP relay (for the hearing impaired) fraud, so looking out for consumers may just not be in the company’s DNA. That, or there’s some financial motivation at play AT&T refuses to make clear.


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