CES 2024: FCC and AT&T Say Collaboration is Key in Combatting Spam

The Commission has been aggressive on spam this year, and AT&T has been working to improve filters on its networks.

CES 2024: FCC and AT&T Say Collaboration is Key in Combatting Spam

LAS VEGAS, January 10, 2024 – Members of the telecom industry and the Federal Communications Commission emphasized the need for industry and government entities to collaborate in combating scam calls and texts at CES on Tuesday.

“Collaboration is key here,” said Amanda Potter, assistant vice president and senior legal counsel for AT&T.

Current measures

Alejandro Roark, chief of the FCC’s Consumer and Government Affairs Bureau, noted Federal Trade Commission data showing American consumers reported losing $790 million to scam calls and another $396 million to scam texts in 2022.

The Commission took action on preventing both in 2023, expanding its STIR/SHAKEN regime – a set of measures to confirm caller identities – to all providers who handle call traffic, moving to block call traffic from non compliant providers, and issuing multiple fines in the hundreds of millions. Almost every state has entered an agreement with the agency to collaborate on robocall investigations.

In addition, the FCC adopted its first robotext rules and moved to tighten those rules in December, closing the “lead generator loophole” by requiring affirmative consent for companies to send consumers marketing messages. Comments are being accepted on a proposal to institute a text authentication scheme.

For AT&T’s part, Potter said the company has instituted network filters to block messages that are likely to be illegal.

“We’re not going to claim success by any means, but when we have these robust network defenses, that does a lot,” she said, citing a total of 1 billion blocked texts on the company’s networks in July 2023.

AT&T also worked with manufacturers on features allowing consumers to report text as junk when deleting messages, which Potter said has provided extra data to tune spam filters.

What’s next

“We start from a standpoint of maximum flexibility when it comes to messaging,” Potter said, in contrast to voice calls, which are more tightly regulated and required FCC intervention for providers to block. 

“I’m concerned about that being taken away, or perhaps regulation being something of a distraction,” she said.

Roark agreed on flexibility being superior to regulation, although the Commission is moving forward with its proceeding on more expansive text authentication rules. The proposed rules include requiring more providers on the traffic chain to block texts from numbers flagged as scammers by the FCC and requiring measurers to verify the identity of texters, similar to the STIR/SHAKEN system for caller authentication.

The FCC is also taking comments on how AI factors into robocalls and robotexts, both how it’s used to perpetrate them and how the Commission might use AI tools to combat them.

At a House oversight hearing in November, FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel asked Congress for the authority to collect the fines the Commission imposes – a job currently left to the DOJ – and access to more financial information to help the agency’s robocall prevention efforts.

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