Nobody loves a good analogy more than I do. They are wonderful tools to help you make a point by using real-world examples that others can relate to. But I’m wondering if an analogy used by Ajit Pai, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, may have missed the mark.
In speaking to an audience of executives from the telecom industry yesterday, Pai spent most of his time talking about robocalls and the steps that the FCC has taken to try and eliminate them. That includes a Declaratory Ruling that was approved last week giving carriers the power to automatically block calls deemed to be robocalls from being connected to an individual’s phone. 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.”
“Now that the FCC has given you the legal clarity to block unwanted robocalls more aggressively, it’s time for voice service providers to implement call blocking by default as soon as possible,” Pai said during his speech. “But you don’t need to listen to me. This is about listening to your customers. Consumers have had it with robocalls. And I can think of few things you could do to make your customers happier than curbing these unwanted calls.”
In attempting to make his point that the FCC has done its part and now phone carriers need to step up and do what is necessary to end robocalls, Pai used the following analogy:
I don’t know how many of you have been watching the NBA Finals. Even if you have, you may not realize that history was made in Game 2. Golden State was down a game; down five points at halftime; and down Kevin Durant, who most believe is their all-around best player. They were able to come from behind and win on the road largely because Golden State assisted on all 22 of its field goals in the second half. That’s right: 22 field goals on 22 assists. For context, the league’s leading scorer, James Harden, once scored 304 points in a row this season without a single assist. Here’s my point. Nobody is going to fix this problem playing hero-ball. Everybody needs to do his or her part. And when your time to step up comes, you will need to execute. We need to work as one team. If and when we do, we’ll finally curb the robocall problem and give consumers some peace of mind.
The statistic is pretty interesting, even to me — a person who is not a huge fan of professional basketball. But then Pai closed by saying:
This past week, the FCC passed the ball to industry. Let’s see what you can do.
I have issues with the image of the FCC “passing the ball” to the industry to fix the problem of robocalls.
For as long as people have been complaining about robocalls, companies — including those in the credit and collection industry — have been voicing concerns that legitimate calls are being caught up in the nets intended for illegal robocalls. Calls from debt collectors, schools, and doctor’s offices are being labeled as spam calls or fraudulent calls, even though they aren’t. The notion of the FCC “passing” the responsibility of being able to distinguish between legitimate and illegal calls should worry companies in the credit and collection industry. While the Declaratory Ruling does include a mechanism for companies to complain when a number or call has been identified as a robocall when it is not, what penalty will carriers receive if they block legitimate calls from being connected?
In this analogy, the FCC should be the referee making sure that the rules are followed or the NBA setting the rules in the first place, not the point guard on the same team as everyone else.