The campaign "robocall" is in trouble.
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler is proposing clarifications of existing rules that would make it easier for consumers to block robocalls—calls placed using an automated dialer that often include a recorded voice, rather than a live person.
The move is primarily aimed at telemarketers, but they'll cut into the political sphere as well. Because Wheeler's proposal would allow anyone with a landline phone access to services that block all automated political calls, it would effectively allow consumers to shut out all automated messages from political campaigns, parties, and PACs.
"As it stands right now, they're lumping all of us into one bucket," said Moses Ross, who provides political robocalling services to Democrats.
Wheeler's proposal goes before the five-member FCC on June 18, where it is expected to pass. The move would assert voters' "right to revoke their consent to receive robocalls and robotexts in any reasonable way at any time." It would also allow "carriers [to] offer robocall-blocking technologies to consumers," according to a preview of Wheeler's proposal.
The government has placed more and more limitations on robocalling over the years. A few states have banned political robocalls outright. And it has been illegal to automatically dial cell phones since the signing of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991, restricting them to landlines. And as fewer and fewer households own landline phones, the technique has lost much of its punch.