Robocalls Flooding Your Cellphone? Here’s How to Stop Them

Mr. Quilici said the registry is helpful but should not be seen as a panacea.

“If I’m sitting in India dialing a million numbers, what are the odds I’m even going to be fined for violating the Do Not Call Registry?” he asked. “It’s probably near zero.”

Turn to technology

Download apps such as Truecaller, RoboKiller, Mr. Number, Nomorobo and Hiya, which will block the calls. YouMail will stop your phone from ringing with calls from suspected robocallers and deliver a message that your number is out of service.

Mr. Quilici said phone companies, such as T-Mobile, Verizon and AT&T, also have tools to combat robocalls. They work by blocking calls from numbers known to be problematic.

Turn the tables

And then there is the Jolly Roger Telephone Company, which turns the tables on telemarketers. This program allows a customer to put the phone on mute and patch telemarketing calls to a robot, which understands speech patterns and inflections and works to keep the caller engaged.

Subscribers can choose robot personalities, such as Whiskey Jack, who is frequently distracted by a game he is watching on television, or Salty Sally, a frazzled mother.

The robots string the callers along with vocal fillers like “Uh-huh” and “O.K., O.K.” After several minutes, some will ask the callers to repeat their sales pitch from the beginning, prompting the telemarketers to have angry meltdowns, according to sample recordings posted on the company’s website.

Watch what you say

One recent scheme involves getting consumers to say “yes” and later using a recording of the response to allow unauthorized charges on the person’s credit card account, the F.C.C. warned in March.

When the caller asks, “Can you hear me?” and the consumer answers “yes,” the caller can gain a voice signature that can later be used to authorize fraudulent charges by telephone.

Best to answer with “I can hear you,” said Ryan Kalember, senior vice president of cybersecurity strategy at Proofpoint, a cybersecurity company in Sunnyvale, Calif.

What’s ahead

The callers are evolving, Mr. Kalember said. Some have numbers that appear to be from your area code (they result in higher response rates); others employ “imitation of life” software in which the robocall sounds like a live person, complete with coughing, laughing and background noise. This artificial intelligence can be programmed to interact in real time with a consumer.

A recording on the Consumers Union website features an exchange in which a man tries to confirm he is talking to a live person. As the call progresses, the consumer presses for confirmation.

“Will you tell me you’re not a robot? Just say, ‘I’m not a robot’ please,” he says, which is met with various programmed replies of “I am a real person” and “There is a live person here.”

Why do robocalls proliferate?

Mr. Quilici compared robocalling to spam emails: It is all about volume. Companies can use software to make millions of calls at very little expense. They need only a few victims to fall prey to their schemes to more than cover their costs.

“When you hear these guys do these scam pitches, they’re pretty amazing,” he said.

The next development will be integrated efforts combining email, phone calls and social media to scheme money from consumers, Mr. Kalember said, adding that the level of innovation “is really quite astounding.”

“Technology is enabling at a scale we haven’t seen before,” he said.

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Behind T-Mobile-Sprint Merger, a Race to Keep Up With China in 5G

With the U.S. and China vying for tech leadership, the two wireless companies said their union would help America preserve its strategic edge.

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Scott Pruitt Before the E.P.A.: Fancy Homes, a Shell Company and Friends With Money

The E.P.A. chief is under scrutiny for high spending and interactions with lobbyists. Many of the pitfalls he has encountered in Washington have echoes in his past.

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Huawei, Failing to Crack U.S. Market, Signals a Change in Tactics

The Chinese telecom giant, which has been dogged by concerns about its ties to Beijing, dropped its top Washington liaison and other American employees.

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Bulging Debt May Spell Trouble for Energy, Telecom and Retail

Debt needn’t be a big problem for companies with strong cash flow. But in those three industries, some companies are facing stress.

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Richard Yu on Huawei Phone Restrictions

Huawei C.E.O. Consumer Business Group Richard Yu spoke about challenges of expanding his product into the U.S. market at The New York Times’s 2018 New Work Summit.

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Net Neutrality Repeal: What Could Happen and How It Could Affect You

What Might Happen?

The biggest concern is that the internet will become pay-to-play technology with two tiers: one that has speedy service and one that doesn’t. The high-speed lane would be occupied by big internet and media companies, and affluent households. For everyone else there would be the slow lane.

The brand-name internet companies like Google, Facebook, Amazon and Netflix, analysts say, will comfortably be able to pay the higher rent. It will not affect their business, though it may crimp their profits. Avoiding higher prices is one reason the major internet companies have been champions of net neutrality.

But higher prices may be prohibitive for start-up companies and new voices in the media and entertainment worlds. W. Kamau Bell, a comedian and host of the CNN documentary series “United Shades of America,” recently described in The New York Times how the internet is so often the path to popular and commercial success for newcomers. They upload a video and it goes viral.

That will no longer be true, Mr. Bell wrote, without net neutrality rules that “ensure that anyone who puts something on the internet has a fair shot at finding a life-changing audience.”

The government-backed guarantee of equal access is why public interest groups, nongovernmental organizations, charities and millions of private citizens wrote to the F.C.C. in support of the net neutrality rules.

But the broadband and telecom companies — and some economists — say that the freedom to charge different prices for different products and services is vital to healthy markets. That kind of “price discrimination,” they say, is the fuel of innovation and efficiency.

In a public comment earlier this year to the F.C.C., AT&T called the Obama-era rules “an unprecedented regulatory overreach for which there is no economic or marketplace justification.”

The F.C.C. rules mandated net neutrality principles under a utility-style telecommunications law, called Title 2, that dates to 1934. The carriers fear that it all but ensures price regulation.

“What they really object to is Title 2, not the net neutrality principles,” said Craig Moffett, an independent analyst.

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Major telecommunication and broadband companies including Comcast have argued that the internet should not be subject to utility-style government regulation. They say that reduces their incentives to invest and improve service. But supporters of net neutrality rules say repeal will give internet providers too much power. Credit Cindy Ord/Getty Images for Comcast

So Whom Do You Trust?

The answer, like so many these days, is politically charged. The repeal reflects the conservative backlash against government regulation, which has been a hallmark of the Trump administration.

Tim Wu, a law professor at Columbia University who is credited with coining the phrase “net neutrality,” said the repeal plan not only rolls back the Obama-era rules, it goes further. It specifically permits broadband carriers to block media content, Mr. Wu said, an added power which was not the case during the administration of George W. Bush.

“An allowance of blocking is really pretty shocking.” Mr. Wu said in an email.

Yet if government is in retreat, then consumers are left to trust the behavior of the internet-access companies like Charter and AT&T. In their filings with the F.C.C., the companies have claimed that faith would be well founded. Market incentives, Charter told the F.C.C., push the companies to provide the best service to its customers, catering to consumer demand.

Charter said it voluntarily adheres to net neutrality principles, and will continue to do so. “We do not block, throttle, or otherwise interfere with the online activity of our customers,” the company said.

But a weakness in the free-market argument, industry analysts say, is that in some regional and rural markets, households have only one internet provider available to them. That undermines the theory that competition will protect consumers.

Roger L. Kay, an independent technology analyst, predicted that larger bills — not content blocking — would be the most likely result. If the big internet and media companies will have to pay their carriers more for high-speed services, the expenses will trickle down to households.

Consumers, Mr. Kay said, “will end up paying higher prices for essentially the same service.”

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Congress Moves to Strike Internet Privacy Rules From Obama Era

Republican lawmakers and the new chairman of the F.C.C., Ajit Pai, have said the privacy rules were onerous and unfairly strapped regulations on telecom carriers, but not on web companies such as Facebook and Google that also provide access to online content.

“It is unnecessary, confusing and adds another innovation-stifling regulation,” Senator Jeff Flake, Republican of Arizona, said this month when he introduced the resolution to overturn the rules using the Congressional Review Act procedure that lets Congress overrule new agency regulations.

The Senate’s vote was a victory for giant telecommunications and cable companies. The F.C.C. chairman under the Obama administration, Tom Wheeler, had declared that broadband would be regulated more heavily, by categorizing the service in the same regulatory bucket as telephone services, which are viewed as utilities.

That move acknowledged the importance of the internet for communications, education, work and commerce and the need to protect online users, Mr. Wheeler had said.

Under the internet privacy rules that Mr. Wheeler passed, apart from broadband providers having to ask permission to track browsing and other online activities of a user, the companies were also required to use “reasonable measures” to secure consumer data against hackers. The privacy rules were scheduled to go into effect at the end of this year

Broadband providers had balked and ramped up lobbying against the rules. Comcast and other broadband providers created the lobbying group 21st Century Privacy Coalition, led by a former Federal Trade Commission chairman, Jon Leibowitz, to defeat the broadband privacy rules.

“We appreciate today’s Senate action to repeal unwarranted F.C.C. rules that deny consumers consistent privacy protection online and violate competitive neutrality,” the cable industry lobby group, NCTA-The Internet & Television Association, said in a statement on Thursday.

With Republicans now in charge across the government, AT&T and Comcast are also poised to benefit from further deregulation. Since the presidential election, the companies have pushed the new Republican-led F.C.C., lawmakers and the White House to roll back net neutrality, the requirement that broadband providers give equal access to all content on the internet, saying the rules hamper their ability to invest in new networks and jobs.

The F.C.C. chairman, Mr. Pai, has also talked with Republican allies in Congress about privacy and broadband classification. Mr. Pai has already chipped away at more than a dozen regulations, including aspects of net neutrality and the program, known as Lifeline, that provides subsidies for broadband users in low-income households.

Consumer groups warned that internet users would suffer from the changes. The Federal Trade Commission, the consumer protection agency, is barred from overseeing broadband providers, so without the F.C.C. privacy rules, the federal government will be a weaker watchdog over internet privacy, supporters of the regulations said.

“Senate Republicans just made it easier for Americans’ sensitive information about their health, finances and families to be used, shared and sold to the highest bidder without their permission,” said Senator Edward J. Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts.

Democrats had taken to the Senate floor on Wednesday and Thursday to warn that without the rules, broadband providers will now have free range to peer into their customers’ lives. A company like AT&T or Sprint can tell the time people wake up by when they check the clock on their phone, or see where users go to lunch or whom they visit. By tracking a user’s browsing of medical websites, a carrier can also determine if that person might have an illness.

The Senate’s action also signaled a philosophical shift on tech regulation. Lawmakers and Mr. Pai have said regulations should be created only when there is proof of harmful activity. They also argue that the telecom industry competes with internet firms such as Facebook and Google for access to online content, so any rules should also include those companies. Republicans have said the F.T.C. should be the watchdog for all online privacy.

But Democratic regulators have said the key difference is that consumers do not have many choices for broadband access, which makes them vulnerable to data collection by internet service providers.

“Subscribers have little or no competitive choice as to which provider to use,” said Terrell McSweeny, a Democratic commissioner of the F.T.C. Yet broadband providers “know our identities, and their position gives them the technical capacity to surveil users in ways that others cannot.”

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Bits: What 5G Will Mean for You

According to global tech and telecom companies that are spending billions of dollars, combined, on the new wireless technology:

■ With 5G, downloading feature-length movies could take less than five seconds.

■ With 4G, downloading feature-length movies could take as long as eight minutes.

Such technology will not come cheap. Carriers and telecom equipment makers will have to install new hardware like cellphone towers in rural areas and tiny mobile hot spots in dense urban areas to reach the 10 gigabits per second target. They will also have to increasingly rely on sophisticated software to manage the expected exponential jump in mobile data traffic. So just as most people’s cellphone bills have risen as they watch more videos and access other entertainment on their mobile devices, expect operators to charge a hefty premium for these new ultrafast services.

Networks that connect millions of new devices

5G is not just about speed. Companies are also preparing for millions of new wireless devices — such as smartwatches and other wearable items, as well as sensors embedded in industrial products — to be connected to the next generation of cellphone networks.

These devices will not use a lot of data (a sensor built into a highway, for instance, will need to send only small amounts of digital information across the network every couple of hours). But when combined, these hundreds of millions — potentially billions — of new sensors will require almost universal connectivity, or the ability to go online no matter where they are, forcing operators to extend their networks to practically every corner of a country.

These devices will potentially be an important new revenue stream for carriers worldwide. Many operators, particularly in Europe, are finding it tough to charge customers more for their increased use of mobile data. But if carriers can persuade businesses in industries like health care as well as industrial conglomerates like General Electric to sign up for new mobile Internet services that connect tiny sensors to the Internet, then operators may have stumbled onto a new way of making money.

Driverless cars with extremely fast response times

If 5G can offer ultrafast mobile Internet speeds, then why should you care about how quickly one device can communicate with another? In short, you shouldn’t. And as current mobile networks offer so-called latency, or digital response times, of around 50 to 80 milliseconds (the time it takes for a web page to load on your smartphone), reducing that speed to a mere millisecond — the goal under most companies’ 5G plans — might not add much to users’ mobile experiences.

Yet that extremely fast response time will be essential for many of the new services that will most likely be offered on 5G networks. A prime example is driverless cars. These machines will have to communicate almost in real time with everything around them to avoid cyclists and other obstacles. That can happen only if carriers offer one-millisecond latency, something that may become a lifesaver if autonomous cars become a reality.

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