A new FCC proposal put forward by Chairman Ajit Pai now looks to render both spoofed text messages and robocalls from outside of the U.S. illegal, closing off a couple of the remaining "loopholes" that prevent enforcement against malicious foreign entities.
At its most basic, the proposal would enable the FCC to pursue legal consequences for scammers from "overseas" that make robocalls or send ill-intended text messages to U.S. wireless consumers. Such entities often spoof phone numbers so that the calls or texts appear to be domestic, often seeming to come from call centers and similar sources. According to Mr. Pai, the proposal would allow the FCC to go after those entities with "every tool" it has.
What does this mean for mobile users?
Consumers likely wouldn't notice much change if the proposal passes the scheduled vote, set to take place at an FCC meeting on August 1. That's because the FCC has already spent an enormous amount of effort and resources both enabling and forcing mobile operators in the U.S. to block or warn about robocalls and similarly malicious interactions via mobile devices.
Among the most prominent and recent of those actions was the FCC's decision to allow carriers to turn on blocking by default. That effectively allows service providers to stop calls or texts from known spoofed numbers from being completed in the first place. Summarily, customers with compatible devices and services no longer need to worry about receiving those types of risky messages or calls, to begin with.
That decision and other measures like it have collectively led to the rapid growth of both competition and cooperation between carriers to begin putting a stop to the theft and other crimes often associated with robocalls and texts.
The big change from the new proposal would be that the FCC would have the authority to try and hunt down and prosecute cybercriminals who are using those methods to commit their crimes. That would no longer be true only of bad actors in the U.S. but those from other nations who are making the calls or sending the texts to customers in the country as well.
So wireless consumers within the U.S. will arguably be much safer if the proposal passes the vote.
Almost guaranteed to pass
The FCC has been no stranger to controversy under Mr. Pai, particularly since the chairman was responsible for removing regulations often referred to under the "net neutrality" umbrella as well as putting up strong opposition to any attempts at bypassing the decision. However, this latest proposal is all but guaranteed to pass through without much dissent.
Not only has the body already voted on numerous measures in a similar vein in the past. The measure was also approved by Congress as early as last year and carries the weight of the legislative body's support. Dissent from the FCC isn't unheard of and it's not immediately clear how quickly results from the newly granted authority would be seen. But there's very little chance at this juncture that there will be much resistance to the idea that consumers should be protected from digital threats regardless of where they originate.