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US Senate greenlights anti-robocalling bill to combat 'daily deluge'

The U.S. Senate voted 97 to 1 on Thursday to move forward with the TRACED Act, intended to fight a surge of robocalls, in some cases harassing people multiple times per day.

The legislation would create an interagency task force, hike fines the Federal Communications Commission can level against offenders, and extend the statute of limitations on penalties, The Verge said. The bill was introduced by Senators John Thune (R-SD) and Ed Markey (D-MA).

Perhaps most significantly the bill would pressure U.S. carriers to deploy call authentication systems such as STIR/SHAKEN. That technology marks genuine callers as "verified," allowing people to block or ignore anyone else.

The U.S. was bombarded with some 48 billion robocalls in 2018. The problem has become epidemic, particularly with the rise of "neighbor" scams that disguise calls as coming from a person's local area code.

iPhones already have call blocking and ID features as of iOS 10, and other countermeasures are available, but the former require downloading third-party apps and aren't 100 percent effective. Apple is working to bring STIR/SHAKEN to iPhones in the future.

The TRACED Act will still have to survive the House of Representatives to become law. There are already a variety of other anti-robocalling bills awaiting votes.