Chuck Schumer doesn’t like robocalls

Schumer takes on robocalls again, and may he prosper. 
Schumer takes on robocalls again, and may he prosper.  Photo Credit: John Roca

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s Sunday news conferences are the things of legend. For years, on practically every weekend that’s not a holiday, you could expect to see Schumer use a Sunday news conference to land the Monday papers by talking about some extremely specific, not necessarily partisan issue. Think Four Loko or the shrinking size of airplane seats.

Schumer spokesman Angelo Roefaro says the goal of the Sunday classics is to highlight an issue the senator feels deserves his attention and “could use his weight,” and also to show “how government can be a force for good.”

This week, Schumer knocked it out of the park once again: He took on the “hair-pulling” annoyances of robocalls.

Ladies and gentlemen, here is an issue on which the divided republic can pull together.

Is your phone ringing? There’s a good chance it was not your mom or friend. According to data cited by Schumer, Americans received a record-setting total of 4.9 billion robocalls in March.

New Yorkers received 290.3 million robocalls in April – about 11 calls per state resident.

One reason that the scourge of someone calling about your car insurance or student loans seems to be increasing is that technology is making it easier to send out a ton of calls with the push of a button, according to Schumer’s office. Sometimes, the calls are scams or are coming from overseas. 

Technology also makes it possible for calls to appear to come from someone reputable, perhaps from your own Zip code.

Hence the quantity of spam calls, interrupting meals and work and sleep with the infuriating regularity of Canal Street traffic jams.

Schumer channeled some of the agita most people feel about this issue by citing the concern he feels about receiving automated messages in the middle of the night and at first thinking about his parents, in their 90s.

So the senior senator from New York is throwing his significant weight behind bipartisan legislation known as the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act.

That legislation would allow the Federal Communications Commission to fine “robocall scheme perpetrators” $10,000 per call made, plus other protections such as requiring telecom companies to add call authentication technology verifying legitimate calls.

These changes would bolster protections from the Do-Not-Call Implementation Act of 2003, which set up a do-not-call registry to slow down telemarketers. But the technology has advanced and the calls keep coming. 

“Is there any politician who can conquer what seems to be the ultimate unsolvable problem,” one Newsday letter writer asked in 2017 in a string of robocall complaints. “I’m referring to the endless stream of robocalls that I, and many friends and associates, are receiving on what can be called an epidemic basis.”

Schumer himself has raised this issue multiple times over the years including in 2016, when a similar bill failed.

May the cellphone satellite gods take away this slam dunk news conference issue and speed Schumer’s way this time, along with bill shepherds Sens. John Thune, a Republican, and Ed Markey, a Democrat. Give everyone some peace, and let Schumer move back onto airline shenanigans on a forthcoming Sunday.

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