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AT&T and T-Mobile’s plan to end our robocall nightmares doesn’t go far enough

AT&T and T-Mobile’s plan to end our robocall nightmares doesn’t go far enough
[Photo: Hassan OUAJBIR/Unsplash]

Don’t take AT&T and T-Mobile’s latest robocall effort as a sign that you should start answering the phone again.

The carriers said today that they’ve “put differences aside to fight unwanted robocalls for customers.” Specifically, they’re working together to verify incoming calls between their networks with a protocol called SHAKEN/STIR, which should help customers know if a call from “mom” or a nearby area code is actually legit (or is instead just a scammer messing with caller ID).

The progress big carriers hopefully make here is important, but as Ars Technica points out, it’s not clear that the changes announced today will solve, well, much of anything in the short term. For one, this specific effort won’t actually block robocalls. T-Mobile’s press release notes that this news is about caller verification and not actually blocking robocalls, but it calls the effort “a key step toward giving customers greater confidence and control over the calls they answer.”

This is progress, however, as Ars Technica writes, “calls from phones that fail the test, possibly because the Caller ID is being spoofed, will still ring customers’ phones and may not come with a warning.” More meaningful progress on caller verification requires more carriers to work together (including international carriers), and the FCC has requested they do so.

A study shared by the FCC earlier this year projected that almost half of the calls you’ll receive on your mobile phone in 2019 will be scams, including those ever-present robocalls. The same study estimated that “neighbor spoofing will increase to the point where nine out of 10 scam calls will be from a familiar area code.”

For now, your personal telephony hell isn’t going anywhere—not unless you turn to other tools, such as paid plans offered by carriers and third-party services. Or, you can go back to texting. Just try to be gentle with your thumbs.

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