FCC Commissioner Seeks Confirmation Whether Carriers Will Charge For Blocking Service

One of the five commissioners on the Federal Communications Commission has written a letter to 14 different phone carriers, seeking details on how each plans to roll out their call blocking services to customers and whether the carriers plan to offer the service for free or charge for it.

Geoffrey Starks, who, along with Jessica Rosenworcel are the two Democratic commissioners on the five-member commission, wrote the same letter to AT&T, Bandwidth.com, CenturyLink, Charter, Comcast, Cox, Frontier, Google, Sprint, TDS, T-Mobile, US Cellular, Verizon, and Vonage.

Last week, the FCC voted to approve a Declaratory Ruling that allows carriers to automatically block calls their systems deem to be robocalls, without notifying customers. The carriers will have to give customers the opportunity to opt-out of the service, should they so choose. The carriers will also be able to offer customers tools to block calls from anyone not in their phones’ contact lists or not on an approved “white list.”

“Our action has received enthusiastic support from the public and industry stakeholders, including many carriers,” Starks wrote in his letters. “I am also optimistic, and hope that our approach will empower the public by quickly making call blocking tools available to millions more consumers. While we may have disagreed on some of the details, my fellow Commissioners and I also uniformly agreed that call blocking services should be offered to consumers for free.”

Among the questions that Starks asked each of the carriers are:

  1. Indicate whether you will offer your customers default call blocking services on an informed opt-out basis and, if so, provide details of your plans to deploy these services, including a timeline for implementation.
  2. Describe how you intend to inform consumers about this service.
  3. Indicate whether you expect to act contrary to the Commission’s clear expectations and nevertheless charge your customers for these services.
  4. If you do not currently plan to offer customers default call blocking services on an informed opt-out basis, please explain why.

Starks gave each carrier until July 10 to reply with answers to his questions.

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