Opinion: The FTC Loves Robocalls

robocalls_0Recently NPR’s Marketplace featured an interview with Edith Ramirez, Chairwoman of the FTC. The interview can only be described as softball. Host Kai Ryssdal didn’t press her on any of the real issues facing the organization. He most specifically didn’t ask her about the number #1  consumer complaint – Robocalls.

Their own reporting in 2013 indicated that they receive 200,000 complains/month about robocalls. This reality inspired a one day summit in 2012, then the first Robocall Challenge in 2012-2013.

Several other events have since been held in an attempt to engage the technical community with respect to this problem, including:

While they’ve handed out cash prizes, neat T-Shirts and other goodies, they’ve haven’t made any measurable progress in combatting the scourge of robocalls.

Oh, they’re no doubt busy…having a nice time…and engaging the dev community, which are a younger group of people that could have a transformational effect on the organization. According to the recent NPR interview their staff are mostly lawyers ands economists at present, though they intend to add more technologists in the future.

We might not expect much on the matter in 2016. After all, it’s an election year. Elections breed robocalls like mosquitos in a swamp.

I suspect that the FTC is so engaged in their current activities that finding a real, deployable solution isn’t even a consideration anymore. All of the contests and PR exercises have become their M.O.

Hereabouts the robocalls continue unabated, despite being on both state and national do not call registries. Excuse me, the phone is ringing. Again.

Incidentally, it happens that this is National Consumer Protection Week. #NCPW2016

A Gigaset With A Blacklist & The FTC’s Robocall Challenge

Gigaset-C620AEarlier this week I saw a press release detailing a new model of Gigaset cordless DECT phone. This new model, known as the Gigaset C620A, isn’t even SIP capable so normally I wouldn’t give it the time of day. However, the release placed unusual emphasis on one particular feature…a blacklist function intended to reduce the impact of nuisance calls.

Nuisance calls have been on my mind lately, not so much because we get them…because we generally don’t suffer such a problem. They’ve been on my mind because ZipDX’s David Frankel has been railing against the outcome of the FTC/FCC sponsored Robocall Challenge intended to crowd source a solution to the problem of such calls.

David entered that contest but was not one of the winners. He made some inquires about the judging criteria and scores, but met with resistance. In fact, David’s experience following up on the scoring was pretty bad. So much so that he’s been pursuing the FTC and FCC for more details. His efforts in this pursuit made it into The Wall Street Journal on June 25th.

While the contest was over some time ago, there was a Senate hearing on the subject just last week.

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Walt Mossberg Says “We suck at broadband!”

You really need to see this. It’s Walt giving a presentation outlining trends in TV viewing on PCs vs home theater and the sorry state of the broadband reality in North America. I don’t always agree with Walt, but he has this completely nailed. He very lucid and well spoken on the matter. He also highlights AppleTV & Tivo as well as the pending (60 days) availability of a 3G iPhone.

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