It’s rare that my phone rings to alert me of anything other than a text or email (ugh, millennials).
But when I do hear the tell-tale tones of ELO’s “Mr. Blue Sky,” it is usually an unknown number I ignore—another robocall, no doubt.
If you’ve been feeling inundated by nuisance numbers recently, you’re not alone.
A whopping 26.3 billion automated messages were received in the US last year, according to Seattle-based caller profile firm Hiya. Up 46 percent over 2017’s total of 18 billion, the number averages out to 10 spam calls per person, per month.
The Federal Communications Commission has criticized the practice and promised to take action.
In November, the agency said it would create a database for businesses to ensure approved phone numbers haven’t fallen into the wrong hands. The FCC also gave wireless carriers more flexibility to block spam texts.
Chairman Ajit Pai last month even called on carriers to implement better caller ID authentication systems.
But that’s not enough for John Oliver.
The comedian took on the FCC and robocalls in his latest episode of HBO’s Last Week Tonight, calling out Pai’s half-baked efforts to implement call authentication programs.
“Instead, what’s he’s done is ‘urged’ [telecoms] to do it,” Oliver said, using air quotes for emphasis. “And while some say that they are ‘working on it,’ the fact is, if he had ‘required’ them to do it from the get-go, we might actually have those fixes by now.”
The late-night host previously tussled with the Federal Communications Commission in 2014, when he urged Internet trolls to put their talents to use by inundating the agency with net neutrality comments.
Within 48 hours, the FCC twice tweeted about technical difficulties with its online comment system “due to heavy traffic.”
This time, Oliver is sending his own message.
“Yes, FCC, we meet again, old friends,” he said, standing next to a giant finger hovering above a huge red button, which allegedly activates a system to robocall all five commissioners every 90 minutes.
“Except this time, unlike our past encounters, I don’t actually need to ask hoards of real people to bombard you with messages,” he boasted. “Because, with the miracle of robocalling, I can now do it all by myself.”
The Federal Communications Commission did not immediately respond to Geek’s request for comment.