AT&T Becomes First Carrier to Roll Out Automatic Call Blocking

AT&T yesterday became the first telecom carrier to roll out call blocking services to its customers for free, becoming the first carrier to do so following a Declaratory Order approved by the Federal Communications Commission.

Part of its AT&T Call Protect service, automatic call blocking “will be added in coming months on lines where we’ve already automatically added suspected spam alerts, but not fraud blocking,” the company said in an announcement. Customers will receive a text message when the service has been added to their line.

Under the Declaratory Order, which the FCC approved at its June meeting, carriers will be able to automatically block calls their systems deem to be robocalls, without notifying customers. They 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.”

“The FCC has been a tremendous partner in the war on robocalls,” said Joan Marsh, executive vice president of regulatory and state external affairs for AT&T Communications, in a statement. “The Commission’s recent action builds on a yearslong effort to enable broader adoption of call-blocking tools and allow providers to better protect their customers and networks. AT&T remains committed to working with our government and industry partners in the ongoing battle against unwanted and illegal robocalls.”

The issue — for carriers and the FCC — is deciding which calls to block. An individual may want to receive an automated call reminding him or her of an upcoming appointment with a doctor, but not an automated call from the same number in reference to an unpaid healthcare debt. How will the carriers determine which call to block and which one to go through?

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