Pai: FCC to Convene Robocall Authentication Summit

Pai, Ajit Pai likes his robocalls SHAKEN and STIR-red 

The FCC chairman is pushing carriers to adopt the SHAKEN (Secure Handling of Asserted [information using) Tokens/STIR (Secure Telephony Identity Revisited) robocaller-ID protocol, which he said he expects them to do before the year is out, and says if they don't do so voluntarily he is ready to regulate them into it. 

Pai has made cracking down on unwanted robcalls--there are billions of robocalls annually--an avowed priority and is under pressure from Congress to do so as well. 

Related: Comcast and T-Mobile Announce STIR/SHAKEN Partnership 

Pai said Monday the FCC will hold a summit July 11 to vet industry progress and address any challenges to getting that done. Various carriers have indicated they are already on it.

“I’ve repeatedly demanded that major voice service providers implement a strong call authentication framework this year. I want to hear from them on the progress they’ve made toward meeting this goal," Pai said Monday (May 13) in a statement.  

But if that progress is not forthcoming, the generally deregulatory Pai shook the big stick of regulation. 

"We chose this industry-led path because it is the fastest way to help consumers, but I remain committed to taking regulatory action—action for which we’ve already laid the groundwork—if major carriers do not implement the SHAKEN/STIR framework this year," he said.  

But he would still prefer a marketplace solution. "A regulatory process would likely take more than a year, would be required by law to leave open the question of which specific standard would be adopted, and would potentially get bogged down in litigation," he said. 

SHAKEN/STIR is an effort to authenticate calls using digital certificates identifying where a call originates and providing a verification display on the phone.  

An AT&T spokesman pointed out that it has info about robocalls at its consumer awareness website; that is has teamed up with Comcast to share authenticated calls, that AT&T has free, automatic in-network systems that label or block billions of unwanted/illegal robocalls and that scam and fraud labeling began in 2018. 

A Verizon spokesman said that company has taken many steps in the past year, including "the deployment of STIR/SHAKEN in our network connections with some other carriers, including one major, and plans to add the largets providers in the next "few months. "As that happens, we're continually looking for ways to battle these bad actors," he said. "We know it's an annoyance to our customers and we're committed to try and stop these irritating practices." 

Daniel Frankel contributed to this report.  

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.