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February 25th, 2021

Robocall Mitigation: No Longer Optional

There’s no shortage of data on robocalls these days. While voice calling grew by an astounding 184 percent last year, according to Hiya, robocalls happily strove to keep pace, averaging 129.6 million/day or about 1,500 calls each second in January, according to YouMail's Robocall Index. And while telemarketing-related scams dropped last year during the pandemic, by October 2020, the number of robocalls had climbed steadily. Scammers did their part too, with top COVID-19 scams including, but not limited to, contact tracing , vaccine disinformation, stimulus packages, and small business loan scams. 

In addition to the suffering and losses that consumers endure, businesses that are spoofed take a hit to their image and brand. According to the Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions, (ATIS), which just issued their report, Robocalling and Communications ID Spoofing, “It’s well recognized… that illicit and nuisance calling, specifically illegal scam robocalls, has led to a significant loss of customer trust in the global telephone network. To restore this trust, carriers and service providers (SPs) have gone to considerable lengths to design and deploy services that will mitigate the impacts of these illicit calling campaigns.”

In spite of those efforts, there’s more to be done. Top of the list is the need for Communications Service Providers (CSPs) to implement STIR/SHAKEN or robocall mitigation solutions by June 2021.

What exactly do CSPs need to do? 
In 2019, Congress passed the TRACED Act, mandating that service providers implement STIR/SHAKEN call authentication and/or robocall mitigation programs – at no cost to consumers – by June 2021. The FCC followed up with their Second Report and Order, and Best Practices for the Implementation of Call Authentication Frameworks, making it crystal clear that robocall mitigation is essential by all carriers, all the time, regardless of whether or not they have implemented STIR/SHAKEN. 

Almost all of Tier 1 CSPs in the U.S. have already implemented STIR/SHAKEN, with most also leveraging robocall mitigation solutions in their networks as part of best practices. In addition, they’ve encouraged subscribers to use apps to block robocalls. But many small- to mid-sized carriers have held back from implementing STIR/SHAKEN due to cost of compliance to upgrade infrastructure. However, such carriers still have an obligation to take action to combat robocalls by June 2021. And, to really address the issue, it’s critical that robocall mitigation solutions target both originating and terminating calls. 

Released late last year, in recognition that many smaller carriers are critical to ensuring the safety of the calling ecosystem and may require more time to address certain challenges, the FCC’s Second Report and Order offered extensions for STIR/SHAKEN implementation to small and mid-sized carriers.  The FCC stated, however, that those carriers that received extensions must implement robocall mitigation solutions as an interim measure, outlining the following requirements:

  • Certain carriers were entitled to extensions regarding STIR/SHAKEN implementation.
  • Service providers subject to an extension that haven’t fully implemented STIR/SHAKEN on their entire network must implement an appropriate robocall mitigation program.
  • The programs must include reasonable steps to avoid originating illegal robocall traffic.
  • Service providers must also respond to all traceback requests from the FCC, law enforcement, and the industry traceback consortium, and they must cooperate with such entities in investigating and stopping any illegal robocallers that use its service to originate calls.
  • Service providers must also respond to all traceback requests from the FCC, law enforcement, and the industry traceback consortium, and to cooperate with such entities in investigating and stop any illegal robocallers that use its service to originate calls.

Hold onto your hat, it’s not just for carriers that received an extension!
In October of last year, the FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau called upon the North American Numbering Council (NANC) via its Call Authentication Trust Anchor (CATA) Working Group (WG) to issue Best Practices for the Implementation of Call Authentication Frameworks. Here’s what it says about robocall mitigation: 

  • Service providers, whether IP- or non-IP-based, should have ongoing robocall mitigation programs in addition to implementing call authentication protocols.
  • While the elements can vary, the program should include ongoing monitoring of subscriber traffic patterns to identify behaviors that are consistent with illegal robocalling. Service providers may, after further investigation, take appropriate action to address such behaviors.

No silver bullet to end robocalls.
As noted by ATIS, “One unfortunate fact is that as more and varied methods are deployed to counter these calls, perpetrators will continue to evolve their techniques to deliver calls with illicit content in ways that evade the countermeasures. As bad actors continue to evolve their techniques, further countermeasures will need to be developed to cope with new threats.”  

In the meantime, by taking a complementary approach that includes STIR/SHAKEN call authentication, robocall mitigation solutions, and tracebacks, CSPs can help restore trust in a vital communications channel. 

Read our eBook: Robocall Mitigation FAQs for CSPs: Countdown to Compliance, to get answers to your top questions on how to succeed, including:

  • How am I doing compared to other carriers?
  • What did the TRACED Act mandate?
  • What’s different now that the FCC issued their Second Report and Order?
  • Is there a specific checklist of requirements to follow?
  • Should a carrier implement robocall mitigation solutions even if they weren’t given an extension?
  • If the CSP has deployed STIR/SHAKEN, do they also need to implement robocall mitigation?
  • What are the benefits of implementing a robocall mitigation solution?

About Neustar.
Neustar’s Robocall Mitigation solution works alongside STIR/SHAKEN call authentication to identify unauthorized and suspicious use of phone numbers and detect trends and anomalies in calling patterns for both originating and terminating calls. Visit our STIR/SHAKEN Resource Hub to learn about insights, resources, and solutions, and learn how you can implement robocall mitigation solutions today

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