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Robocall 'strike force' sets out to end unwanted calls

Technical experts from across the industry have it out for scammers.

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[Image credit: SarahNW, Flickr]

The Federal Communications Commission is just as fed up with robocalls as you are. After opening the door for telecoms to offer robocall blocking services last year, and urging those companies to make them available for free last month, members of the FCC convened a meeting of the Robocall Strike Force this morning to figure out what should happen next. (And yes, that's really what it's called.)

"As in any pressing challenge like this," FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said, "perfect is the enemy of the good. The nature of software, as you all know, is to start and continually improve. Let's have that philosophy here."

That fast-moving mentality is good news for folks sick of getting fake calls from the IRS at dinnertime, but it's too bad the part of the meeting the public got to see was a little light on the substance. Still, we got get a finer sense of the companies throwing their weight behind this cause. Beyond AT&T, Apple and Google (which were already known to be part of the strike force), AT&T CEO and strike force chief Randall Stephenson conformed that "technical experts" from Comcast, Level 2, Nokia, Samsung, Sprint and Verizon.

"We have carriers, device makers, OS developers, network designers, and as you heard the commissioner speak, regulators and lawmakers are going to have a role to play in this as well," said he added. "So what we're going to have to do is come out of this session with a comprehensive playbook and that we [will] all go out and begin to execute." Beyond that, Commissioner Ajit Pai raised more specific questions about steps the working group could take, from encouraging Congress to pass an anti-spoofing act proposed in 2015 to pushing for enforcement actions against known, shady telemarketers.

Not long after, strike force members in attendance took sequestered themselves behind closed doors to get to work. Here's hoping up they cook up a thorough plan of action soon -- they'll report their findings in 60 days.

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