PhotoThe Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has just reminded everyone that it's illegal to block lawful radio communications -- like wi-fi and cellphone calls. 

Now here's the other side of that coin. Is it -- or should it be -- legal for consumers to block unwanted telephone calls from telemarketers, solicitors, politicians and others who intrude brazenly on their privacy?

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says yes, it is and should continue to be legal. In a brief filed with the FCC, the FTC said that giving consumers the ability to block certain types of calls would "make a significant dent in the problem of unwanted telephone calls."

The FTC noted that “consumers continue to be plagued with unwanted telemarketing calls, which in many cases violate the law."

Numbers spoofed

The number of such calls has increased exponentially in recent years. Many are now coming from overseas and are being placed via the Internet, using technology that lets the caller "spoof" a number, making it appear that a call from, say, Ukraine looks like it is coming from Washington, D.C., or any other locality.

To combat this problem, a technological solution is needed, and “call-blocking technology – i.e., a ‘spam filter’ for the phone – is an integral part of that technological solution,” the FTC said.

But despite strong consumer demand for call-blocking, telecommunications companies -- phone companies and wireless carriers -- have "resisted offering call-blocking services to their large customer bases,” the FTC observed. 

The carriers claim that the FCC legal framework does not allow phone companies to block calls, even if their customer requests call-blocking. According to the FTC’s comment, however, numerous authorities recognize a carrier’s ability to block telephone calls at a consumers’ request.

Concluding the comment, the FTC writes that, “An affirmative statement from the FCC that common carriers can offer call-blocking services to their consumers without violating their common carriage obligations would be in the best interest of American consumers.

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