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  • (phone ringing)

  • - [Woman Robocaller] Hello, this is a notice

  • from AT&T Chinese--

  • - So you've probably gotten a call like this.

  • These are most of the phone calls I get at this point.

  • And if someone tries to actually call me,

  • I usually assume it's a robocall and don't pick up.

  • Consumer Reports estimated that Americans

  • received 48 billion robocalls in 2018.

  • There's so many robots in the system

  • that there's no room left for humans.

  • It's a huge problem and a huge regulatory failure,

  • given how controlled the phone system is.

  • But fixing that problem is a lot harder than it looks.

  • You only understand why, when you look at the big picture.

  • (electronic pulsing tones)

  • So there's sort of two separate issues here.

  • There's a technological issue

  • that created the problem and a legal issue

  • that kept us from fixing it.

  • But let's start with the tech problem.

  • Of course, no one was gonna bother calling 10,000 people

  • with a rotary phone routed by human switchboard operators,

  • just to find one person who would fall

  • for their car insurance scam.

  • Once you get into the 1960s

  • you start to see autodialers

  • which are physical machines

  • that would run through numbers automatically,

  • and telemarketers became a problem pretty quickly.

  • But the closed nature of the phone system

  • made it hard to mount a full scale spam operation.

  • The phone company controlled the whole network

  • from the switches to the phone numbers

  • to the wires themselves.

  • So if they really wanted to find you.

  • there was nowhere you could hide.

  • The important change for robocallers

  • didn't come from the hardware but the network, itself,

  • the actual physical material

  • that was carrying the information.

  • The original phone system was built with copper wire,

  • which is fine for voice calls.

  • But when the internet happened

  • suddenly most residential homes were using

  • that same copper to dial onto the internet.

  • (dial tones pulsing)

  • It was really slow, and we only got faster speeds

  • by laying new connections with fiber optic cable.

  • That's the modern broadband network we use today.

  • Once they laid that fiber it was easier

  • just to use fiber for everything,

  • especially since the companies selling you phone service

  • were often the same companies

  • selling you cable and internet.

  • But that fiber didn't get laid everywhere.

  • So now you've got a strange mash up of copper networks

  • and fiber networks mixing phone traffic

  • and internet traffic with lots of places

  • to jump from one network to the other.

  • The weird overlap of the two networks

  • work like a border town.

  • Anytime spammers got in trouble on the phone system,

  • they could switch back to the internet and disappear.

  • There were IP phone systems

  • that could be hacked, anonymous online call services

  • and dozens of other tricks that robocallers

  • took full advantage of.

  • The basic rule here is that

  • if you're on the internet you get spam.

  • They are just as many spam emails

  • as there are robocalls and they're running

  • a lot of the same scams.

  • But we've gotten pretty good at dealing with it in email.

  • Those filters aren't perfect but they mostly work.

  • So, why can't we do that with robocalls.

  • This is where the legal problem comes in.

  • It turns out there's a specific law

  • that has stopped phone companies

  • from treating robocalls like spam,

  • passed before computers even existed.

  • The Communications Act of 1934

  • was passed after the government realized

  • that Bell Telephone was gonna be

  • the only phone company in the country,

  • and without some kind of regulation,

  • there was nothing to stop them

  • from jacking up prices or manipulating service.

  • So a law was written to keep the company in line.

  • In particular, the Communications Act made it illegal

  • to subject any particular person,

  • class of persons or locality

  • to any undue or unreasonable prejudice or disadvantage.

  • In other words, they had to provide the same phone service

  • to everyone at a fair price.

  • (drum roll)

  • So, that rule's really important.

  • Without that regulation the phone company

  • could decide that every call

  • to a certain town was gonna count as long distance

  • or refuse phone service to people

  • if they thought they were gonna use them

  • for something the company didn't like.

  • But carriers also took the rule to mean

  • they had to deliver every call,

  • even the ones that look sketchy.

  • If they got it wrong and blocked a real person,

  • it could look an awful lot like unreasonable prejudice.

  • That meant that for years,

  • the best you could do to fight robocalls

  • was installing a third party app on your phone.

  • As long as carriers were still delivering the call,

  • they didn't mind if an app blocked it for you.

  • But you still had to deal with calls as they came in,

  • some of the apps cost money

  • and it was hard to tell the good ones from the bad ones.

  • This summer the FCC finally stepped in.

  • On June 6, 2019 the Commission voted

  • to affirm robocall blocking by default.

  • Basically promising that they wouldn't sue carriers

  • for blocking robocalls before they're delivered.

  • Most carriers are already offering services

  • that will block the calls up front,

  • although the options vary from company to company,

  • and sometimes you still have to opt in.

  • Now it's too early to say

  • that we've solved the robocall problem.

  • Carriers are actively blocking calls now which is great,

  • but it means robocallers are getting more serious

  • about evading the filters,

  • which also means filters have to get better

  • just to keep pace.

  • It's a whole new arms race and with the FCC out of the way,

  • it's just getting started.

  • So, if you want a little more information

  • about what you can do to get robocalls

  • off your phone, my friend, Jake, did a step-by-step guide

  • of exactly what you need to be looking for.

  • Otherwise, thanks for watching!

(phone ringing)

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B1 fiber spam company problem copper network

Robocalls are finally getting blocked

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    林宜悉 posted on 2020/11/12
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