Robocalls, Still The Bane Of Our Existence
Oct 26, 2021 • Forbes
The story of the manufactured net neutrality crisis is instructive when investigating consumers’ #1 communications complaint: robocalls. When the 2017 Federal Communications Commission (FCC) removed the so-called Title II net neutrality rules, the Washington Post and New York Times predicted an internet apocalypse. Some policymakers warned that the internet would be delivered one word at a time. Since then, however, US internet speeds and technologies have only improved. Moreover, nixing the 1934 Ma Bell price controls helped reboot fallen network investment. This proved critical as networks had to be ready before Covid-19 hit. The rule reversal also restored oversight of broadband markets to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) where it had been since inception of the commercial internet. The FTC has broad powers to police anti-competitive practices and provide financial relief to consumers.
Data from the FCC’s Consumer Complaint Center in 2020 reports that robocalls, or unwanted calls, comprise 55 percent of all complaints compared to just 1 percent for net neutrality or open internet. The FTC manages the Do Not Call Register and processes tens of millions of complaints of unwanted calls and texts annually. Yet despite significant public and private effort, robocalls continue to plague consumers. Then pandemic has fueled robocalls with fraudsters posing as government officials or ecommerce providers requesting personal, payment, or delivery information. Fraudsters employ spoofed or recognized phone numbers to evade regulation and blocking technology. The FBI reports that that highly-organized, international criminal gangs are behind much of the fraudulent activity. The problem is growing as scammers and fraudsters move to WhatsApp and other internet platforms.