FCC's RoboCall plan and how phone providers will protect the consumer

We are increasingly being inundated on a daily basis by telemarketers and spammers on our land lines and on our mobile phones. These phone calls can appear to be from your local area or calls from those impersonating an IRS agent whose purpose may be to steal your IRS refund. This deceptive and sometimes malicious practice of disguising the calling number via Caller ID is known as spoofing.

iPhones and Android phones do come with built-in blocking features for specific calls and some carriers offer free or for pay blocking tools that go a step further, but FCC Chairman, Ajit Pai, would like to see all phone companies block these robocalls for free. Telephone service providers would be required to disclose to the consumer what calls are being blocked and an option to opt out should they choose to do so. Many argue that this should be made a requirement by the FCC and not left up to the carriers to decide whether to charge for these services or to offer them for free.

Pai would like phone carriers to adopt an authentication system called SHAKEN (Secure Handling of Asserted Information Using Tokens) and STIR (Secure Telephony Identity Revisited) which uses digital certificates based on common public key cryptography techniques, which can differentiate between legitimate phone calls and spoofed ones to ensure the caller’s phone number is secure. Each telephone service provider would obtain their certificate from a certificate authority trusted by other telephone service providers.

Implementation of SHAKEN and STIR may allow unsigned calls to ring, but be marked as unverified. But implementation of this system would only work well if all carriers adopted this specific authentication. SHAKEN and STIR and can only verify Caller ID on a phone call when both carriers, sending and receiving, have deployed this technology. Thus far, T-Mobile, Verizon, Comcast, Bandwidth.com, Google and Cox have committed to call blocking features based on SHAKEN and STIR. (See responses to Pai from phone providers here.) Phone providers who do not have plans in place for an authentication network are CenturyLink, Charter, Frontier, Sprint, TDS Telecom, US Cellular, and Vonage. Some people are concerned they will not receive a call they may want, but the analytics used are directed at detecting spam callers and robocall patterns, and there would be flexibility for the user to decide what to block or the ability to opt out altogether. Another option may be the ability for the user to allow calls from their contact list, essentially adding them to a “white list.”

The FCC will vote on two robocall items on June 6th, the first item would allow phone companies to block robocalls by default using methods to analyze every call.

The following are details on the proposal provided by the FCC:

  • Voice service providers may offer opt-out call-blocking programs based on any reasonable analytics designed to identify unwanted calls and will have flexibility on how to dispose of those calls, such as sending straight to voicemail, alerting the customer of a robocall, or blocking the call altogether.
  • Providers should clearly disclose to consumers what types of calls may be blocked.
  • Voice service providers must provide sufficient information so that consumers can remain in the program or opt out.
  • Call blocking should not in any way interfere with our country’s emergency communications systems.

The second item, which may take a few months to finalize, is a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) which asks for public input and which is necessary before the FCC will consider implementing the new rules. The NPRM proposes a legal safe harbor for carriers that block calls that aren’t signed up under SHAKEN and STIR frameworks.

Battery Cases for your 2018 iPhone

Many individuals need more battery power than their phone battery can provide during the course of a day. Enter the iPhone battery case. These cases can extend battery usuage up to 30+ hours which should be more than enough for any power user.  How do they work? Typically, you turn your battery case on when your iPhone is in need of a charge and then turn it off when it is topped off. Battery cases are incapble of overcharging your phone; they will stop charging when the phone battery is at capacity.  The following are two popular battery cases available for the newest iPhones.

Apple Smart Battery Case for the iPhone XS, XS Max and XR

Today, Apple added Smart Battery Cases for the new 2018 iPhone models, the XS, XS Max and XR to their Apple Store website for $129. The Smart Battery Cases will be offered in two colors, black or white, in Apple's silicon design with the distinctive hump on the back of the case.

Apple Smart Battery Case

Apple Smart Battery Cases charge your iPhone and battery case simultaneously and are Qi-certified which means you will be able to wirelessly charge your phone with the case on; users will be able to charge even faster with USB-PD compatible chargers. Lightening accessories are supported, such as the EarPods with Lightening Connector or the Lightning Digital AV Adapter. Apple's Smart Battery Case will take advantage of iOS, allowing users to check their internal and case battery charge on their iPhone Lock screen and in the Notification Center, much like your connected AirPods or Apple Watch.

iPhone XS Max Smart Battery Case
  • Talk time up to 37 hours
  • Internet use up to 20 hours
  • Video playback up to 25 hours
iPhone XS Smart Battery Case
  • Talk time up to 33 hours
  • nternet use up to 21 hours
  • Video playback up to 25 hours
iPhone XR Smart Battery Case
  • Talk time up to 39 hours
  • Internet use up to 22 hours
  • Video playback up to 27 hours

Mophie Juice Pack for the XS, XS Max and XR

Another alternative (and my personal favorite)  is the Mophie Juice Pack which is available in black, gold, blue and (product) red for $119. The Mophie Juice Pack extends the life of your iPhone up to a total of 31 hours. Like the Apple Smart Case, it adds extended battery time and protection for your iPhone. 

The Mophie Juice Pack is Qi-certified wireles meaning you can charge with the case on or using USB-C port with an included charging cable. Regardless of your choice for charging, Priority+ will send power to the iPhone first before charging the Juice Pack. The Mophie Juice Pack has a status button on the back of the case which triggers the status LED's, indicating the charge level. Four LEDs indicates the battery case is fully charged, while one LED indiates that it is almost empty. 

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