Verizon knows you’re sick of spam calls because everyone’s sick of spam calls. Except, possibly, Verizon itself. The carrier is making a big deal about moving its formerly-paid Call Filter service to free starting in March. Which isn’t as nice as it sounds.
See, the $3-a-month toolset, which will come with all supported smartphone plans in March, only displays “the level of spam risk” in the system’s built-in caller ID readout. So if a spammer is calling, it will tell you it’s spam. But the call will still go through, ringing your phone and interrupting your day, whether or not Verizon is certain that the call is coming from a robot or spammer.
Update: It looks like you can use the service to auto-block Spam calls, but this isn’t enabled by default. It also uses a crowdsourced blacklist, so there’s a chance it could block calls that you don’t want to be blocked. Use it at your own risk.
What’s the point of this? Now that billions of spam calls are being made, they’re far and away the most common form of calls for a lot of people—just like spam email and junkmail have already become for email and snail mail. Of the twenty or so calls I get a week, eighteen of them are now robo-dialed spam calls. And I can tell which ones they are, no caller ID alert necessary, because they’re either a randomized number from my original area code or coming from area codes where I don’t know anyone. As long as the calls come through, they’re still bothering me. Blocking numbers one-by-one is equally useless since the VOIP systems used to randomize the numbers for each call.
Companies like Google are working on this problem: the digital assistant-powered screen function built into Pixel phones is a good start. But as a hardware and software provider, Google can only do so much. Verizon owns the connections being used to enable this scourge of distraction and wasted time. A tiny warning that comes along with your unavoidable interruption isn’t much of a help.
If Verizon can identify spam callers, which should now be ridiculously easy from a data gathering standpoint, it should be able to stop them. But it won’t. It’s good that it’s making formerly-paid tools free. It’s just too bad that those Verizon tools are essentially useless at any price. If there’s a solution to the spam call hell we’ve found ourselves in for the last few years, Verizon apparently isn’t interested in providing it.