In these times of political strife, it’s nice that despite our differences we can still band together as a nation in the face of a catastrophe that affects us all equally. I speak, of course, of robocalls, and it seems that the House and Senate have put their differences aside for the present in order to collaborate on a law combating this scourge.Despite a great deal of FCC, a few high-profile fines, and some talk from telecoms about their plans to implement new anti-robocall standards, half the country’s phones are still blowing up regularly with recordings and scammers on the other side. If regulators find it difficult to act, ultimately what’s needed is legislation, and lawmakers — who no doubt are receiving the calls themselves, which might have given the task a special urgency.
As often happens in Congress, two competing versions of the bill emerged to address this issue, and both passed in their respective chambers earlier this year. Now the leaders of the committees involved have announced an “agreement in principle” that will hopefully allow them to pass a unified version of the bill. The “Pallone-Thune TRACED Act” owes its name to its primary sponsors — Rep. Pallone (D-NJ) and Sen. John Thune (R-SD) — and the earlier and superior acronym from the House act, Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence. “Our agreement will require telephone carriers to verify calls and allow robocalls to be blocked in a consistent and transparent way, all at no extra charge to consumers. The agreement also gives the FCC and law enforcement the ability to quickly go after scammers,” said Rep. Pallone in a statement accompanying the news. The bill text is expected to be finalized in a matter of days, and it will hopefully make it onto the legislative calendar in a hurry. Meanwhile the FCC has been waiting patiently for telecoms to implement SHAKEN/STIR, an anti-spoofing measure they can implement on their networks, repeatedly warning that it will eventually take action if they don’t. A resolution in June made clear that robocalls from outside the country are legal to block, but didn’t say anything about potential fees. Fortunately the act mentioned above does make sure consumers don’t get dinged for the service.