Source Vs. Manifestations Re: 202210071016.AYC Re: FCC chairwoman: Fines alone aren't enough (Robocalls)

Abraham Y. Chen aychen at
Sun Oct 9 16:11:42 UTC 2022

Dear Brian, et al.:

0)   Thanks for sharing the Robocall situation in Italy. This confirms 
that the RoboCall phenomenon is now universal, not just in US. Although, 
from my experience, I am not surprised at all.

1)   Based on my best understanding, I believe that the entire issue has 
been handled backwards, upside down or outside in. I have been waiting 
for what FCC's latest STIR/SHAKEN directive might be able to do. Its 
technicality sounded very impressive. It did seem to have some effect on 
Robocalls. As a consumer, however, this current approach has defeated 
the basic purpose of the original Caller-ID service. Apparently, true 
telephony (common) carriers have begun to ask to be compensated for 
accessing their subscriber database in the process of validating a 
caller by other (such as VoIP) operators. (In the old days of monopoly, 
this was not an issue because it would be reciprocal within the same 
carrier, or among a limited few similar ones.) As a consequence, 
Caller-ID displays of most incoming telephone calls nowadays often lack 
the caller names which was the key ingredient of the feature. They are 
replaced by a duplicated "caller number", or at best prefixed such with 
a "[V]" symbol which took me awhile to realize what it meant. This is 
very annoying since most people can't correlate such to more than a 
couple phone numbers of close relatives or associates, on the fly. 
However, this resultant system behavior serves RoboCallers' purpose just 
fine, because the repeated and persisted ringing sound from unknown 
callers disturb the called party sufficiently to the point of answering, 
once again.

2)  The whole subject can be looked at from a very simple perspective 
such as a daily routine of accessing a premises for delivering 
something. We all know that the location of a property is publicly known 
by its street address. Any and every one can get to it. To control the 
access, a key to the lock on the door has to be given to only a welcomed 
few. For an establishment, a receptionist or a security guard serves the 
same purpose during business hours.

3)  For postal services, a mail box at the entrance to a property or a 
mail room at an establshiment has been used for the above "buffering" 
purpose to deal with the junk mail. So far, these traditional setups 
have worked reasonably well for centuries.

4)  When telephony was initially introduced, it was regarded as a 
novelty. Getting a call was a big event. No one had the notion about 
blocking any calls. Later on, the "caller pays only if a call is 
answered" convention led to the alerting device (the ringer) purposely 
made loud enough to be sure that the called party would be pressured to 
answer the call. During the manual switchboard days, operators screened 
the callers very effectively, because practically every caller was known 
to the operator.

5)  To avoid disturbing workers by random calls, a receptionist / 
telephone operator was tasked with this "buffering" duty at any sizable 
establishment. As telephone switching equipment got mechanized, the 
combined DID (Direct Inward Dialing), VM (Voice Mail) and AA 
(Auto-Attendant) technologies took over this function. So, majority 
workers at institutions and businesses (except those served by CENTREX - 
CENTRal EXchange, because each is on a direct public phone number) have 
hardly ever been bothered by unwanted calls, even to the modern days.

6)  As per-call charge dropped significantly, largely encouraged by bulk 
rates, then furthered by VoIP technology, the unwanted calls ranging 
from harassment, telemarketing to scam, etc. skyrocketed. Not knowing 
the extension numbers behind PABX (Private Automatic Branch eXchange) 
machines, Robocalls target private residences most of the time.

7)  By miniaturizing DID, VM and AA subsystems, even residential single 
line telephone service could be shielded from RoboCalls just as well, as 
disclosed by US Pat. No.5,596,631.  It was commercialized as a product 
called TriVOX VN100 (See URL below) that enabled a home owner to set a 
changeable combination lock at his telephone demarcation point for 
blocking all calls, except those welcomed callers who have been given 
the code (extension number). This effectively blocked all unwanted calls 
regardless the type, even though some might be legally exempted, such as 
political, religious or charitable, etc. However, FTC and FCC decided to 
take other routes.

8)  The Internet SPAM eMail issue can be parsed down to very similar 
components. In the earlier days, digital communication was established 
end-to-end directly via dial-up modems. Following the PSTN protocol and 
log-in procedure, the involved steps discouraged most of the abuse. Once 
the electronic messaging traffic got consolidated to limited few 
providers with store-and-forward facility, the screening function became 
part of their services. Behind the scene, they often ratchet up the 
screening process against one another with various new "rules", making 
the users frustrated about why certain routine eMails all of a sudden 
got bounced. In the meantime, there has been an add-on function offered 
by certain eMail services that buffers messages from unknown origin 
until the intended recipient grants the permission to let it through. 
However, it never seems to have caught on.

9)  These days, RoboCalls and SPAMs are out-of-control activities 
wasting so much resources, not mentioning the aggravation imposed on 
ordinary citizens. However, looping these back to the "limited key 
distribution for the front door lock" analogy, STIR/SHAKEN and eMail 
servers policing one another may not be the optimal approaches. That is, 
if everyone has the freedom of having the key to any property, while the 
targeted party is at the mercy of remote unknown third party locksmiths 
who promise to do their best to disable those "illegal" keys somehow, 
how good the result could be? Since the basic nature of a communications 
provider, no matter whether it is a common carrier or a VoIP provider, 
is always to get the message delivered, the current screening schemes 
are against their very business model. This is kind like relying coyotes 
to guard a chicken coop. Does any of them have any incentive to perform 
well? Perhaps, FCC realizing fines aren't enough is finally validating 
this contradiction.

10)  This line of analysis may be similarly applied to a couple other 
Internet related issues. However, I shall withhold them for another day.


Abe (2022-10-09 12:09 EDT)
P.S.: The VN100 mentioned in Pt. 7) above was a feasibility 
demonstration product. At that time, the size and cost of sub-systems 
involved were still bulky and expensive. All needed capabilities are now 
built into the basic SmartPhones. So, the required functionalities may 
be performed by a straightforward add-on APP. As well, the currently 
available IC devices make it feasible to build a compact stand-alone 
"VN100 + VM" module for supporting POTS (either landline or VoIP 
derived) configurations. So, an updated distributed defense system 
against RoboCall may now be deployed cost effectively. Since the 
enforceable life of US Pat. No. 5,596,631 has expired, any party 
recognizing the potential of applying this technology to benefit 
citizens of your region, please contact me offline. We will be glad to 
share our knowledge about this alternative.

On 2022-10-07 03:45, Brian Turnbow via NANOG wrote:
>> The federal law in 47 USC 227(e) says:
>> (1)In general
>>   It shall be unlawful for any person within the United  States, or any person
>> outside the United States if the recipient is  within the United States, in
>> connection with any voice service or text  messaging service, to cause any
>> caller identification service to  knowingly transmit misleading or inaccurate
>> caller identification  information with the intent to defraud, cause harm, or
>> wrongfully  obtain anything of value, unless such transmission is exempted
>> pursuant to paragraph (3)(B).
>> In (3)(B) is a narrow carve-out for law enforcement and court orders.
>> The important point is that spoofing is illegal with fraudulent intent, OK with
>> benign intent.
> This is a very interesting conversation as there is a ongoing discussion on how to ban spoofed calls here in Italy..
> Here operators must identify each customer and ensure that they are screening incoming numbers.
> Most do, but some do not and become sources of spoofed traffic.
> The biggest problem however comes from out of country originators that allow foreign call centers to use Italian numbers.
> Thus the calls come in from an international carrier.
> We are moving twords blocking incoming calls from international trunks containing Italian from numbers, something we see already in place for carriers in other EU countries such as France.
> Most operators here have been against stir/shaken as a means to resolve the problems.
> Brian

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