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FCC Acts Against Spam Calls and Messages By Handing Control to Carriers

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Dec 12, 2018, 12:36 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   @zeman_e
updated Dec 12, 2018, 2:16 PM

The FCC today approved several declaratory rulings that aim to protect consumers from robocalls and spam messages. Though the move was taken under the guise of safeguarding everyday people, the changes in effect give carriers more control over their networks in ways that could harm consumers. First, the FCC agreed to create a database of reassigned numbers. Legitimate callers can check the list to see if the party they intend to reach is still available at a given number. If the number has been reassigned, callers cannot dial that number until the new owner gives them permission. FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel called for this tool to be made freely available to consumers. Second, the FCC reclassified text (SMS) and picture/video (MMS) messages as information services, rather than telecommunications services. The latter would allow for more government regulation of such services. This move gives carriers more control over messaging services through robotext-blocking and anti-spoofing measures. Many fear this change will allow carriers to block or censor legitimate messages that they might not like. Commission Rosenworcel fully dissented on the latter declaratory ruling. “Today the FCC makes the same mess for text messages it did for Net Neutrality⁠⁠ last year,” said Rosenworcel via her Twitter account. “That means your carrier now has the legal right to block your text messages and censor the very content of your messages themselves.”

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