In the August 2019 issue of Contact Center Pipeline, I wrote a column entitled, “Robocalls? Don’t Shoot Me, I’m Only the Harmonica Player.” If you’re curious about what being a harmonica player has to do with robocalls, I suggest you read the column. In a nutshell, the subject of that particular column was a pending Caller ID framework for authenticating a caller being developed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The purpose behind the legislation is to try to curb the tens of billions of robocalls the American public is deluged with each year.
I first learned of the caller authentication framework while attending last year’s Noble Systems’ customer conference, SNUG, and hearing about it in several conference sessions. The official name for the framework is SHAKEN/STIR, which is an acronym for Signature-based Handling of Asserted Information Using toKENS (SHAKEN) and Secure Telephone Identity Revisited (STIR). The intent of SHAKEN/STIR is to check and double-check a caller ID through a series of authentication and verification validations. If a call doesn’t pass these checks, it is not connected.
Last year also brought to congress another bi-partisan legislative effort called TRACED, which is an acronym for Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence. As I noted in my August column, SHAKEN/STIR is the framework being adopted by phone telecom providers to identify false, or spoofed, caller ID. So far, SHAKEN/STIR adoption has been strongly suggested by FCC Chariman Ajit Pai. It is not a law, but SHAKEN/STIR has so far been universally supported by U.S. telecom providers.
TRACED is legislation that provides the FCC the authority to fine robocallers who falsify caller ID up to $10,000 per call. While that sounds like it would be a deterrent, the fact is fines have been totally ineffective when it comes to robocalls in the past. FCC records show that robocallers have been fined $208 million since 2015. Of that $208 million, less than $7,000 has actually been collected.
As I pointed out in my column, the majority of robocalls originate offshore, or are small operations that can shut down, move, change its name, and open up for business again in a matter of days. TRACED legislation sounds impressive and fulfills a function in that legislators can now tell their constituents that they’re doing something about robocalls, but the fact is the legislation has no teeth. U.S. laws and legislation means nothing to overseas operators that are behind the majority of robocalls Americans are subjected to daily.
SHAKEN/STIR holds greater potential for actually curbing robocalls and has found universal support among telecom providers, but the software that has been developed or is under development to block spoofed calls work only on the cellular telephone network. It won’t work on the public switched telephone network so there is more work to do on behalf of people who still have landlines.
Until the FCC and legislators can put their collective minds together and come up with technology and legislation that will finally shut down the avalanche of unwanted calls, I don’t expect to see any significant change in the volume of robocalls in the year ahead.
The National Association of Call Centers
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