Robocalls to the Human Highlight Film

A Brief Conversation with FCC Chairman, Ajit Pai

No one can seemingly escape those annoying robocalls, not even the Chair of the FCC, Ajit Pai. In the above interview, Pai indicates that robocalls are his agency’s top consumer protection priority as indicated by the record fines levied against violators (e.g. this $120M fine).

He also provides a brief overview of the technical effort to eradicate these unwanted calls. He praises the efforts of ACA members in their assistance with the industry-led Secure Telephone Identity Governance Authority. Central to this effort is the creation of a secure digital certificate system that ensures the identity of a caller; a sort of SPAM filter for phone calls except that this authentication system should prevent the calls from ever being put onto the network.

Pivoting to a different topic, Pai explains why he was recently on stage with one of his sports’ heroes from his youth, NBA Hall of Famer Dominique Wilkins. His relationship with Wilkins began over Twitter (see this short Twitter video from Pai and Wilkins on their work together). He and Wilkins both have a passion for using telemedicine to help improve healthcare outcomes for people living in rural and other areas that are health-care deserts.*

Wilkins was diagnosed with Type-2 Diabetes a year after retiring from professional basketball. He has been actively managing his disease since then and, as seen in this article, believes that technology is part of the answer. Broadband provides the link that ties the technology to the patient and the medical professionals. Pai lauds ACA members for their efforts in bringing broadband to parts of rural America that would otherwise be on the wrong side of the digital divide.

*An example of a product that could be used for telemedicine and that could make a huge difference in the health and educational outcomes for people of all ages, particularly in rural areas, is the eye-tracking device, that uses machine learning to provide a high-level, early diagnosis of disease or learning challenges, described in this video The Eye as a Window Into Health and Well-Being (YouTube).

ACA Connects Summit coverage brought to you by the ACA and ViodiTV.

3 responses to “Robocalls to the Human Highlight Film”

  1. Abraham Y. Chen Avatar

    Hi, Ken:

    1) The annoying unwanted telemarketer calls in the past have morphed into RoboCalls of the digital age. This appears to be an ever expanding issue without ending resolution in sight. All publicized approaches have certain hidden twists. So, the phenomenon perpetuates.

    2) To start with, the subject matter is rather generic. It applies to all forms of communications, not only traditional, but also mobile telephone services, as well as Internet hacking. So, telephony terminologies, Caller (the party who originates a call), Called (the party who responds to a call) and Carrier (an entity that connects the Caller and the Called parties) will be applied to all three cases, in the following discussion.

    3) The fact is that there are two fundamental aspects that most parties do not recognize, or, perhaps being purposely ignored due to business considerations:

    A. The revenue of a public communication Carrier comes from providing connection from a Caller to a Called: This is a crucial business principle. The recent “No More RoboCall” service offered by Carriers is a blatant example. Although sounded great by description, the devil is in the details. Such service intercepts a “known SPAM” Caller only after the first ringing has already been delivered to the Called. So, the Carrier fulfilled its promise to the Caller by having alerted the Called. On the other hand, the Called, even though subscribing to such a feature (often offered on the surface as “free” complimentary service), gets disturbed by the first ringing anyway. The irony is that if a Carrier is serious about blocking this kind of calls, it should have terminated the call before ringing the Called. Better yet, such calls should be blocked at the originating end, freeing the network resources from being burdened by such meaningless activities. Of course, the ability of the Caller to freely change its Caller-ID these days renders the effectiveness of this approach rather limited.

    (This is a good example of a Chinese proverb: “Ask a merchant selling both sword and shield to simultaneously demonstrate their respective worthiness”. Here, the merchant is the Carrier.)

    B. The Called is in plain sight, while the Caller is in the dark: As long as we maintain this relationship in the equation, the problem will never go away. As such, all current techniques dealing with the issue are practically spinning-the-wheel shows. This is like the traditional door-to-door salesmen situation. There is no way to stop them from ringing your door bell if it is on the public street. The only solution is to empower the Called parties with door bells having combination locks for the owners to change by their own will and at anytime, and then only give such number to those welcomed Callers.

    Avinta worked out a scheme following this principle by commercializing US Patent 5,596,631 as a device named TriVOX/VN100. This is the only known product that is capable of stealthily achieving this mode of operation. Although we have stopped manufacturing it due to the high cost of the associated hardware modules, we continue to receive requests for it from desperate consumers, even today.

    4) With the popularity of mobile telephone services, the technique in 3) B. above can be implemented in SmartPhone software to achieve the same result, eliminating the ineffective approach in 3) A.

    5) The same philosophy can be applied against Internet SPAM / hacking, because this solution does not require knowing the identification of the Caller (Source IP address) which has been the fundamental handicap of the Internet, from day one.

    Abe (2019-03-25 12:36)

  2. Ken Pyle Avatar

    A Test Comment

  3. Ken Pyle Avatar

    Telecompetitor reports that the FCC has moved to a mandate of the STIR/SHAKEN rules in the IP portions of their networks by June 30, 2021.

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