WASHINGTON: U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai will propose on Wednesday granting mobile phone companies new powers to block the rising number of unwanted "robocalls", industry officials briefed on the plans said.
The U.S. telecommunications regulator is expected to take action on Pai's proposal at its June 6 meeting. The FCC declined to comment on Tuesday ahead of Pai's expected announcement.
Pai and the other four FCC commissioners are set to testify later on Wednesday before a U.S. House panel amid frustration in Congress and among U.S. consumers over the rising number of robocalls.
YouMail, a company that blocks robocalls and tracks them, estimated there were 4.9 billion unwanted U.S. calls last month after nearly 48 billion in 2018, which was up nearly 60 percent over 2017.
Three-quarters of the U.S. Senate backs legislation to provide regulators and law enforcement additional tools to prevent illegal robocalls and punish robocallers. The bill would also make it easier for the FCC to seek financial penalties.
In May 2018, Pai called on companies to adopt an industry-developed "call authentication system" for the cryptographic signing of telephone calls aimed at ending the use of illegitimate spoofed numbers from the telephone system.
Pai said this week he expects major phone providers to implement those caller ID standards this year and will host a summit on July 11 to review the industry’s progress.
"We chose this industry-led path because it is the fastest way to help consumers, but I remain committed to taking regulatory action" if carriers to do not act this year, Pai said in a statement on Monday.
In November, Pai wrote to the chief executives of major telephone service providers including AT&T Inc, Verizon Communications Inc, Sprint Corp and other companies, demanding they launch the system no later than 2019 to combat robocalls.
FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democrat, said this week that the FCC should "require call authentication technology" and "make available free tools to consumers to block these calls." She also urged the FCC to set up a "robocall enforcement division."
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)