The FCC is now prepared to hold US mobile carriers to a firm deadline on the implementation of robocall measures. Specifically, reports indicate the telecommunications agency is pushing providers to comply with SHAKEN/STIR protocols by June 30. That means that by July of next year, robocalls should begin to be greatly diminished.
According to the FCC, the protocol will directly tackle the robocall problem by addressing those calls that utilize spoofed numbers. It will also assist authorities when it comes to identifying the malicious entities and individuals behind the calls. But it should also halt the majority of the calls before they reach customers.
The FCC first demanded carriers comply with robocall measures in late 2018. The focus of SHAKEN/STIR, the agency said at the time, is on verifying and authenticating calls as they pass across networks.
The FCC robocall-fighting deadline won't just stop calls
Now, since the FCC first began calling on providers to implement the measures, some progress has been made. That started with T-Mobile and a limited number of smartphones in mid-2019. From there, the self-proclaimed "un-carrier" began implementing SHAKEN/STIR authentications between its networks and competitor networks.
The move laid the groundwork for similar efforts from other carriers. But other carriers, while quick to implement at least partial protections on their own networks, have been slow to implement cross-carrier protection.
The FCC decision to put a new robocall-related deadline in place for carriers is meant to spur those efforts on. But, while phone calls are at the heart of the matter — with the FCC estimating up to $10 billion in costs to American users annually — the measure doesn't necessarily stop there.
The now-default Android SMS and MMS app from Google, the aptly named Messages, was spotted integrating SHAKEN/STIR standards as early as March 2019.
Google is effectively setting a standard for less-prevalent malicious communications here. It's doing so by integrating standard messaging with carrier-built, robocall-stopping authentication methods pushed for carriers by the FCC. The fact that the FCC has now set a deadline means that more messaging apps could soon adopt the standards as well. That's if and when Messages finalizes its integration.
Smartphone service providers aren't the only central player here
Mobile carriers are integral to driving the implementation of standards meant to stop robocalls from reaching US customers. That stems from the fact that carriers are ultimately in control of the network equipment used to complete calls and messaging. More importantly, they manage the software that sorts the data involved and can enable this type of authentication. But the successful rollout of protections based on SHAKEN/STIR doesn't just hinge on providers.
The use of the verifications, on the user-side of the equation, also depends on mobile manufacturers and consumers. That's because not every smartphone is currently able to support the verification messages or authentication in question. So smartphone buyers and OEMs will need to ensure their phone is supported by the implementations. Conversely, OEMs will need to be motivated to roll out updates that enable the network features to be activated.