Proving the axiom that even a blind squirrel occasionally finds a nut this week is Texas Attorney General and friend of the Observer Ken Paxton. Thursday afternoon, Paxton — who's still under felony indictment and still trying to get Texans with pre-existing conditions kicked off their health insurance — found his nut, announcing that he and a group of attorneys general from across the country he is co-leading have reached an agreement with a dozen U.S. phone companies to fight the scourge of robocalls.
Voicemail boxes across Dallas, Texas and the rest of the United States just breathed a sigh of relief.
“If you have been guilty of leaving your phone turned on, you know it is getting hard to participate in a worship service, watch a movie, or talk to your loved ones without being interrupted by a call from a fake phone number," Paxton said. "Texans’ private phones are being taken over by constant calls, invading their privacy and all too often defrauding them of their hard-earned money."
Dallas-based AT&T, CenturyLink, Comcast, Frontier Communications, T-Mobile, Verizon, Sprint and U.S. Cellular, among others, are participants in the agreement.
According to Paxton's office, the companies have agreed to implement free call-blocking at both the smartphone and network level for all customers, work to authenticate that calls are coming from a valid source and monitor their networks for suspected robocallers.
A system known by its acronym, SHAKEN/STIR, will be used by the companies to suss out spoofing, the practice by which scammers mask their own number with one that resembles the person they are trying to contact.
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The service providers are also charged with verifying the information business customers sign up with and referring bad actors to law enforcement.
“My office has a history of aggressively pursuing illegal telemarketers through litigation. And now we look forward to working with voice service providers to squash scammers’ access to Texans. We won’t stop until the robocalls do,” Paxton said.
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai celebrated the agreement.
“These principles align with the FCC’s own anti-robocalling and spoofing efforts. Earlier this month, the FCC adopted rules to apply anti-spoofing prohibitions to international robocalls, as called for by many of these same state attorneys general. In addition, we continue to see progress toward adoption of caller ID authentication using SHAKEN/STIR standards," Pai said. "The FCC is committed to working together with Congress, state leaders and our federal partners to put an end to unwanted robocalls.”