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AT&T CEO interrupted by a robocall during a live interview

AT&T CEO interrupted by a robocall during a live interview


Can we fix this now?

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AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson Discusses Justice Dept. Lawsuit Over Company’s Time Warner Merger
Photo by Amir Levy/Getty Images

At an Economic Club event in Washington, DC today, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson was interrupted on stage by a robocall, pausing an interview in front of dozens of people and driving home that absolutely no one is safe from the spam epidemic.

Over the past few months, regulators at the Federal Communications Commission have been feeling the pressure from lawmakers and consumers who are urging them to put an end to the relentless onslaught of robocalls people receive every day. Last year, consumers received over 26.3 billion of these scammy calls and the problem only appears to be getting worse.

“I’m getting a robocall, too,” Stephenson said during the Economic Club event, ultimately declining the call on his Apple Watch. “It’s literally a robocall.”

Lawmakers like Sens. John Thune (R-SD) and Ed Markey (D-MA) have introduced a bipartisan piece of legislation that would work to tone back the number of calls, but there hasn’t been any similar reaction from the FCC to combat the problem. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has repeatedly threatened some method of regulatory intervention if carriers like AT&T and Verizon don’t step up with a solution, but he and the commissioners have yet to propose any new rules for carriers.

In response to frustration from consumers, wireless providers including AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile have launched free spam filter for calls, but as Stephenson can now attest, it doesn’t make any difference. Today, AT&T and Comcast announced the “nation’s first” call authentication system between two service providers, so that’s a good step in the right direction.