The industry continues to make progress in the fight against robocalling – even though we still have a long way to go (Reader Forum)
Robocalls are the number one complaint to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), comprising roughly 60% of all complaints to the organization. In the past three years alone, the number of robocalls has doubled to an estimated more than 50 billion calls per year in the US, which equates to an astounding 15 robocalls per person per month.
With the severity of robocalls only getting worse, the FCC has made the fight to crack down on robocalling one of its top priorities, mandating that service providers adopt new technology that can determine if a call is legitimate. The technology and framework, STIR-SHAKEN was developed by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions (ATIS) and the SIP Forum to authenticate telephone calls end-to-end and make sure they are coming from legitimate sources.
In recent years, and over the past year especially, there has been significant progress made on implementing STIR-SHAKEN as a critical tool in combatting robocalling.
The following are a few of the key milestones that have recently taken place.
- In February 2017, ATIS/SIP Forum NNI Task Force introduced the STIR-SHAKEN framework.
- In May 2018, the FCC accepted recommendations on the STIR-SHAKEN framework.
- In late 2018, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai directs all of the major service providers to implement the STIR-SHAKEN standards to combat robo and spoofed calling.
- In March 2019, Ribbon Communications (my company) hosted a STIR-SHAKEN Summit that included representatives from 40 North American service providers gathering together to address the robocalling issue.
- In May 2019, the US Senate overwhelmingly passed the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence or TRACED Act to help curb robocalling. The TRACED Act would impose fines of as much as $10,000 per call on those who knowingly defy the rules.
- In June 2019, the FCC voted to allow service providers to block robocalls by default versus the previous longstanding requirement of having their customers opt-in.
- In July 2019, the FCC convened its STIR-SHAKEN Summit hosted by Chairman Pai to identify challenges associated with the deployment of the STIR/SHAKEN framework and how to overcome them. Attendees included service providers of all sizes and special interest groups such as the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), whose members are often the victims of robocalling and spoofing scams.
- In December 2019 President Donald Trump signed the TRACED act into law.
- In March 2020, FCC Chairman Pai issued a statement mandating service providers to implement STIR-SHAKEN by June 2021.
What does all of this legislative activity mean for service providers and, more importantly, consumers who continue to be impacted by nuisance calls? It means that we are making progress, but we still have a long way to go. With the support of the US government, the FCC, and the telecom industry, service providers and vendors have taken strategic steps to design and implement a comprehensive robocall mitigation solution that will provide desperately-sought relief to millions of consumers. And based on the progress made in the US, other countries like Canada, Australia and Singapore have also stepped up their efforts to fight robocalling and other European countries are showing interest as well.
In addition to implementing STIR-SHAKEN, there are other critical factors that service providers must address if they will be successful in mitigating the robocalling issue. While STIR-SHAKEN addresses the signing and verification of calls, it does not address things like who is originating the calls? Is it my subscriber? Is it from the Do Not Originate list? What is the reputation of the caller based on historical calling patterns? What is the context of this specific session? Or where did the call originate and terminate?
To address these and other vital issues, service providers need to augment STIR-SHAKEN with analytics as a key part of their robocalling tool kit. Service providers can leverage analytics to score each call based on a variety of factors. These factors include: how many calls a given number places within a specified period of time, the reputation of the originating service provider, and the reputation of the company or individual making the calls.
Combining STIR-SHAKEN with call analytics will go a long way in complementing the great governmental, industry, legislative and technological progress that has been made over the past few years in addressing the robo and nuisance calling issue. Together we can all work together on a common goal of restoring the public’s trust in the public telephone network.
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