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AT&T, Comcast heed Cavanaugh’s call, announce historic milestone against fraudulent robocalls

After Alabama Public Service Commission (PSC) President Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh earlier this year called on the private sector and federal and state authorities to address increased telemarketing abuses, AT&T and Comcast on Wednesday announced a major milestone in the fight against fraudulent robocalls and spoofing.

In a press release, the companies advised that they “have taken an important step forward to address the problem – an exchange of authenticated calls between two separate providers’ voice networks that is believed to be the nation’s first.”

Customers will soon be able to verify the authenticity of incoming callers on participating networks, with AT&T and Comcast leading a working group of other national companies dedicated to the issue.

The companies will utilize the SHAKEN/STIR protocol, which was called “an important tool in the broader effort to combat fraudulent robocalls” and “an industry first for calls between separate providers.”

Major telecom providers like Charter, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon have gone on record confirming their intent to implement the new protocol.

Excerpt of the press release as follows:

SHAKEN/STIR verification lets consumers know that an incoming call is really coming from the number listed on the caller ID display. While authentication won’t solve the problem of unwanted robocalls by itself, it is a key step toward giving customers greater confidence and control over the calls they receive.

For example, a call that is illegally “spoofed” – or shows a faked number – will fail the SHAKEN/STIR Caller ID verification and will not be marked as verified. By contrast, verification will confirm that a call is really coming from the identified number or entity.

Over the coming months, major service providers will be conducting similar tests with each other’s systems, verifying that their SHAKEN/STIR implementations are compatible.

In a statement to Yellowhammer News, Cavanaugh emphasized she was “happy to see companies working to stop unwanted and fraudulent calls.”

The Alabama legislature has several bills filed for this current session that are focused on telemarketing practices, and Cavanaugh is excited to see legislators continue working on the state level to offer residents all the help that they can. However, there is no “silver bullet” to fixing the problem, and she and other experts have outlined that federal regulators and Congress have large roles to play if the type of change that is needed is going to come to fruition.

“I would like to thank AT&T and Comcast for taking this significant step in the right direction and am excited to see other industry leaders soon conduct successful tests of their own,” she said. “As Alabamians and people across the country face a deluge of ‘spoofed’ telemarketing calls, there is still much work to be done. While I am encouraged by and applaud the state legislature’s willingness to do their part in addressing the issue, I continue to ask them, Congress and the FCC to take concrete actions as expeditiously as possible.”

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn