back to article Sick of politicians robo-calling you? Bin your landline, says the FCC

The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has clarified its stance on how members of congress can use autodialers. The verdict? Get rid of your landline if you don't want politicians to robo-call you. The FCC FAQ sheet [PDF] told congresscritters that their precious tele-townhall robocalls are safe from legal action, so …

  1. phil dude

    a touch disengenous....

    But in areas with locked in internet and DSL requires a landline, what do you do?

    The other false flag is that mobile phones (Android does it , I assume iThingy does) have "don't ring if it is not in my phone book" applications. Mine does. And I love to eat spam calls (Tip: Make a spam contact, add the numbers and when you sync your phone the spam list goes with you...).

    I use Truecaller, and my VOIP service (Vonage) does a very good job of blocking spam.

    As I have mentioned before, I have a digital fax attached to my landline so it silently burns the ears of spammers...


    1. Number6

      Re: a touch disengenous....

      You have to have the pair, and unfortunately pay for the phone line, but I don't think anything says you have to have a device plugged in that makes a sound when someone calls the line. The call blocker here will take care of most of them - if it recognises the number as bad then it just plays a recorded message and hangs up, otherwise it rings the house phone. I ignore that, let the answerphone take it, then look it up on Google and add the dodgy ones to the database for future use.

  2. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Of course...

    Of course, I have made it clear when I used to get these political calls (illegally, on my cell phone), that the fact they telemarketed me made SURE I would not vote for them, and would encourage others not to vote for them. SOME politicians *do* have the common sense to realize that it's not the 1950s, there are ways to make people aware of information without harassing them via telephone.

    Landline or not, I do intend to file complaint any time I get one of these. If the FCC spends enough time processing complaints, maybe they will decide to come to the sensible decision that this is in no way a proper use of telephones.

    1. Wade Burchette Silver badge

      Re: Of course...

      "SOME politicians *do* have the common sense to realize that it's not the 1950s, there are ways to make people aware of information without harassing them via telephone."

      Well, it is not too many judging by the laws being passed when it comes to technology. Or maybe it is that big briefcase full of money left of their desk by a representative of the MPAA, which is of course right beside the big briefcase full of money left by some non-profit political lobbyist organization named "Better Rights and Inclusion for the Betterment of Everyone" or BRIBE.

  3. Mark 85 Silver badge

    I'm not buying this...

    Even so called town hall meetings have a political agenda. For any elected official to call is 99% of the time not "informational". They call because they are selling themselves. If we apply that logic to commercial callers than they should be claiming that their calls are informational to let you know about their product/service/scam.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I'm not buying this...

      Dear Mr MARK 85

      This is a personal message brought specifically to you by your friends. It is for your information and benefit, as your friends have noticed that you haven't yet managed to make the time for spontaneously applauding Candidate X. Luckily they know you well enough to know how interested you are in all the many things that Candidate X is interested in, so they have taken the time to inform you tonight...

      Had Philip K Dick lived on maybe he'd have written a sequel to the splendidly philippic "Sales Pitch", with robocalls and internet spam instead

    2. Nelbert Noggins

      Re: I'm not buying this...

      That sounds like the people who used to call me to discuss my expired mobile contract or who come to the door and their opening line is "Don't worry, I'm not trying to sell you anything"

      Do they really expect people to believe they are just bored and fancy a chat to pass the time?

      One sales drone wouldn't accept that by requiring me to pay line rental the "free internet and calls" that myself, my neighbours and others in this area were qualified to receive weren't actually free, because it required me to pay the company he was selling for some money. He insisted he wasn't trying to sell me anything because we were entitled to "free internet and calls"

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm thankful I don't live in the US

    … because the purpose of the call would be irrelevant to me.

    If the call is not made by a human, and two-way in nature, then by definition, it is abuse of a telephony service.

    Telephones are meant to be one-to-one bi-directional devices. If they want a medium that is one-way one-to-many, then they are using the wrong tool, and should be looking at broadcast radio, newspapers, television, etc.

    1. cortland

      Re: I'm thankful I don't live in the US

      They should be.... handcuffed to an uncomfortable chair, have headphones placed over their ears, and be made to endure a month's worth of their concerns' robocalls, that's what they should be. However, the US' Constitution prohibits cruel and unusual punishment, so being made to watch all the reruns of "I Dream of Genie" - consecutively - will have to do.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: I'm thankful I don't live in the US

        You ever thought the callers are actually kinky enough to get off on their own drivel?

  5. chivo243 Silver badge

    robocalls are not telemarketing?

    I've been visiting in the states, and the landline here gets 10-15 calls a day. I'm told they are "ALL" political in some way. The marketing aspect seems to have fallen off for now. I guess it will resume once the elections are over next year?

    I have to think that a vote is also valuable just like cash, so how is this really different from telemarketing?

    1. Number6

      Re: robocalls are not telemarketing?

      It must depend on where you are, in the past week I've had nine calls from some dodgy debt collection firm, a couple of places wanting to do house renovations, one that Google seems to think is a crank caller, a "not available" and a couple I haven't identified. that's a fairly quiet week's worth, sometimes the debt collection agency manages nine calls in a couple of days. I might even take them off the block list for a bit of entertainment this weekend, just to see who they're trying to find and take the piss a bit.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What about VOIP?

    I guess it is only mobiles that are protected because you have to pay for your minutes?

    Why do I think the solution to the ever falling number of landlines making it harder for people to annoy us will be AT&T and Verizon announcing a new "sponsored calling" service available to corporations and non-profits, which allow them to pay for the subscriber end of the call to allow mobiles to be telemarketed, politicked and push polled to their little black hearts' content?

    1. Ole Juul

      Re: What about VOIP?

      I use VoIP a la carte and pay for both in and out on some numbers. Luckily I also use a telemarketing block so don't get nailed by these sorts of attacks.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: What about VOIP?

        And what happens when the telemarketers use techniques to get around the blockers such as by using disguised numbers?

    2. Number6

      Re: What about VOIP?

      Some mobile plans in the US have near-unlimited minutes on them now, so it doesn't cost to receive calls (not that I answer if I don't know who it is). Don't tell the FCC though.

  7. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    Why are the numbers on that dial in the wrong order?

    Just askin'...

    1. Gerry 3

      It's a New Zealand phone

      There are four ways that rotary dials map the holes to the pulses.

      The one shown is from New Zealand.

      1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

        Re: It's a New Zealand phone

        Thank you Gerry; I learn something new every day!

  8. Nameless Faceless Computer User

    It's a trap

    If we ditch our landlines, our cell phones will light up with robocalls because we wouldn't want to cause "hardship" to businesses trying to sell us something. I keep my landline to draw the traffic away from my wireless service. The ringer has been silenced and the calls go directly to voicemail... following a lengthy set of twisting options to leave a message (press '1' to leave a message) which confuse the robots.

    I am a human being. My telephone is designed for human to human interaction. If you are not human, I do not want to communicate with you by telephone.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: It's a trap

      I would add that from my perspective.. if you're human and call to sell me or scam me, you deserve all the invectives I can muster.

  9. Timo

    can I get a 900 number?

    This is one of those times when I wish I could get one of those premium-rate numbers, so that when the robots and politicians call I would get the last laugh. $1.99 per minute would work out nicely.

    1. Gerry 3

      Re: can I get a 900 number?

      In the UK you can get a Flextel number starting 0701 that looks like a mobile (cellphone) number. Calling it costs 49p/minute so that deters most unwanted calls, but you can still be reached if genuinely necessary.

      You can divert incoming calls to a mobile or many international destinations. Very handy when applying online for insurance etc and the webform insists on a phone number being entered. It doesn't accept SMSs, so you don't get bothered by spam texts.

  10. cortland

    Book 'em, Danno*

    Robocalls sometimes tie up the line while they are playing, preventing emergency calls (in the US, 911) and a lot of callers can face fines for calling numbers on the national "Do Not Call" registry.

    For US residents:


  11. Compression Artifact

    Time for some public reaming

    A couple of election cycles ago, I was forced to abandon my land line because I was being hammered by multiple political robo-calls per day from my own party. These were in addition to the usual crap from Heather from Account Services, etc. These calls did not contain useful announcements like upcoming townhall meetings. They were reminders that the other party sucks big succulent donkey balls (which I already know) and requests for campaign contributions.

    So far I've only had one political robo-call to my cell phone--during dinner no less. Instead of complaining to the FCC, I 1) phoned the candidate's campaign manager and reamed him and 2) reamed him again on Twitter for pestering me with dinnertime robo-calls. If all recipients of such calls would take these actions, it might have some effect.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Time for some public reaming

      "So far I've only had one political robo-call to my cell phone--during dinner no less. Instead of complaining to the FCC, I 1) phoned the candidate's campaign manager and reamed him and 2) reamed him again on Twitter for pestering me with dinnertime robo-calls. If all recipients of such calls would take these actions, it might have some effect."

      I'm surprised the campaign manager actually had a reachable phone number and their media team didn't immediately blast you as a liar and a creep.

  12. James 100

    Anonymous phonespammers

    My biggest bugbear lately has been the fact the spammers are allowed and able to make their nuisance calls *anonymously*. (IMO, it's high time use of the 141 caller ID withholding prefix either carried a per-use fee to deter abuse, and/or were restricted to residential lines only.)

    On the bright side, I just ordered a nice new router - complete with PBX and voicemail facility, which apparently includes the ability to route anonymous and blacklisted calls straight to voicemail without ringing. (Yes, the telco allows blocking a limited number of specific callers, for a monthly fee, but this is a much "cleaner" mechanism I think. The extremely rare legitimate anonymous caller can still leave a message and be called back, no monthly fees, and more control too.)

  13. Maty

    Phones - phooey

    If you have something to say to me, send an email. There's very little so urgent that it requires a voice conversation immediately.

    A while back I got so peeved with spam calls that I ditched my landline (saving a good few bucks in the process) got a mobile- and turned it off.

    Whenever someone interrupts a face to face conversation with 'I've got to take this call', I simply walk away. Apart from 999 calls, no phone has an automatic right to be answered.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Phones - phooey

      "Whenever someone interrupts a face to face conversation with 'I've got to take this call', I simply walk away. Apart from 999 calls, no phone has an automatic right to be answered."

      What if the call is from the spouse? There ARE some things that CAN take priority over business, especially if one wants a marriage to last.

    2. kellerr13

      Re: Phones - phooey

      999 calls?

      I'm in the United States, and If I don't want to take a call, I don't take it. I don't care who or what it is. Even 911 calls I will ignore if I want to.

      What is 999?

      1. Number6

        Re: Phones - phooey

        999 was the first national emergency number, as used in the UK before WW2. The US caught up sometime in the 1960s and for some reason chose 911, presumably to be different. (New Zealand uses 111, but that's because their dials are upside down, so a '1' gives 9 pulses).

        I've never had a call *from* the emergency number, normally a return call is on a standard number (and yes, I have had that a couple of times).

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: Phones - phooey

          I think the US chose 911 in the 60's for logical reasons: (1) It was an unused code. (2) It didn't start with a 1, so the routing was kept local. (3) It was still easy enough to remember and relatively quick to dial while still requiring some deliberation to commit (you have to think a bit before reaching and dialing the 9, but once you did that, the -1-1 part could be done in less than a couple seconds).

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Phones - phooey

            000 was chosen in Australia as they found that children playing with the telephone would accidentally pulse-dial 111 by repeatedly pressing the hook switch.

            A 0 requires 10 such pulses, so vastly reduced the number of false calls at the cost of a couple of seconds (easily less time than what would be spent telling a brat to stop playing with the phone).

  14. Orv

    Yeah, right.

    The FCC's enforcement on this is nonexistent. I get robocalls to my cell phone all the time, mostly from some lady claiming to be my "Google+ local business manager." A friend has been getting one to two robocalls a day to her cell phone about a car warranty scam for months.

  15. drtune

    FCC is a fucking joke

    I get dozens of robocalls on my cell, it's on the DNC list and everything; they just don't give a fuck. The FCC is completely toothless and useless.

    1. Mike Flugennock

      Re: FCC is a fucking joke

      Tell me about it, man. Tell me all about it.

      I don't get a whole lot of telemarketing calls or SMS's on my mobile -- I make a point of not giving out my mobile number to anyone except people I actually want to stay in touch with -- but they come on a fairly regular basis despite my mobile number being on the Do-Not-Call list. At least three of 'em were that robot claiming to be from the IRS, trying to run that overdue tax scam or whatever the hell it is. These days, I just let 'em ring over to voicemail if the number isn't in my contact list; none of them have left any messages. The occasional SMS spam is almost always the classic penny stock tout. The numbers go straight into my block list.

      And, yeah -- the FCC is toothless and useless.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    If the FCC suggest it, then it's something you should NEVER go along with.

    1. Mike Flugennock

      Re: No.

      Seriously, is that the best advice they can come up with -- ditch my landline? Not friggin' likely, man; I get my DSL through a landline. Useless-ass motherfuckers.

  17. Slx

    I get so many sales calls on my office landline that I no longer use it. I occasionally check the voicemail but it's actually now even more useless than a spam filled email account.

    I have a home landline number, but I've never plugged a phone into the line. It came "free" with an FTTC 100Mbit package but I think I'll go with "naked broadband" next time I switch ISP as I've no need for PSTN services.

    These spammers are just going to kill off what remains of the U.S. PSTN network by causing people to cut phone lines off. A once essential service will be wrecked by spam because it's so cheap to use and regulators are doing nothing to control abuse.

    Automatic cold calling is illegal here in Ireland though so politicians have to physically canvass door to door which is much handier for giving them a piece of your mind!

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      "Automatic cold calling is illegal here in Ireland though so politicians have to physically canvass door to door which is much handier for giving them a piece of your mind!"

      I'm surprised someone hasn't used VoIP telephony to do cold calling from outside the country. I think that's how a good chunk of US robocalls start out and why not even the FCC can control them (outside their jurisdiction).

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