Phone companies are promising major leaps forward in spam call blocking technology

Phone companies are promising major leaps forward in spam call blocking technology
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in November that “we need call authentication to become a reality.” (AP Photo/John Raoux, File)

(Gray News) – If, like most people, you hate those calls from unfamiliar numbers that always seem to be a recorded message telling you you’re in trouble with the IRS, there’s good news coming this week.

Companies from AT&T to T-Mobile to Verizon are rolling out anti-robocall efforts. Those include AT&T announcing a partnership with Comcast to develop a call authentication service, T-Mobile offering caller verification and Verizon reportedly issuing a new app this week that will help people block spam calls.

“Once just viewed as a nuisance, robocalls have grown into a plague,” AT&T says on its website.

AT&T and Comcast said last week that they completed an exchange of authenticated calls using the SHAKEN/STIR protocol, which they characterized as “believed to be an industry first for calls between separate providers” in a release.

A Federal Communications Commission release in November described the SHAKEN/STIR protocol as an instant verification procedure that can ensure calls only come from real people.

“Under the SHAKEN/STIR framework, calls traveling through interconnected phone networks would be ‘signed’ as legitimate by originating carriers and validated by other carriers before reaching consumers,” the FCC release said. “The framework digitally validates the handoff of phone calls passing through the complex web of networks, allowing the phone company of the consumer receiving the call to verify that a call is from the person supposedly making it.”

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in November that “we need call authentication to become a reality.”

“By this time next year, I expect that consumers will begin to see this on their phones,” he said.

AT&T and Comcast said they expect to begin offering authentication later this year. In January, T-Mobile claimed to be the first carrier to begin implementing the protocol, for a Caller Verified feature available on Samsung Galaxy Note9 phones. And in a January release, Verizon also said it was committed to supporting SHAKEN/STIR.

Forbes first reported the Verizon app, which is expected to be available by the end of the week. The app will be a free version of an existing paid app Verizon has available to help individuals block spam calls. It will reportedly check incoming numbers against a database of known spam numbers.

“These calls have increased in recent years because technology has made it cheap and easy for robocallers to make calls from anywhere in the world while hiding their identities by displaying fake caller ID information,” Verizon explains on its website.

The company said in a January release that it would be debuting free spam alerting and call blocking for all of its wireless customers.

Verizon currently contracts with a third-party service called Nomorobo for its Fios digital voice customers, which also checks incoming numbers against a database of known robocallers and telemarketers.

Nomorobo is also available to general customers as a spam-blocking app for both Apple and Android phones.

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