If you Google the FCC (and who wouldn’t?) you will learn many things. You will learn these initials stand for the Federal Communications Commission. You will learn it is an independent agency of the United States government created by statute to regulate interstate communications. You will learn it was formed 84 years ago. You will learn it has an annual budget of $388 million.
Here are some fun facts not mentioned on the Internet. Fun fact number one is that FCC should, in reality, stand for Flawed Capricious Complacency. Fun fact number two is that in the past 84 years, the FCC has failed to even remotely address the issue of telemarketing and all its attendant evils. Fun fact number three is $388 million. Really? $388 million? For a group of people who apparently spend eight hours a day on a coffee break?
If I sound just a little testy (and who wouldn’t?) it is because I am answering about eight telemarketing phone calls a day. I have a few items for sale and so am compelled to answer phone calls from numbers I do not recognize. One of the (few) great ideas generated during one of the eight-hour coffee breaks is the Do Not Call list. Doesn’t that sound like a smashing idea? Do Not Call. This phrase, as I understand it, means do not call. The FCC invited all of us who are sick and tired of telemarketers to put our numbers on the Do Not Call list. It is now obvious this is just a little something to keep us busy between fielding telemarketer calls. The idea was for citizens to register their phones on the Do Not Call list, which does no good at all. A further idea was for citizens to register their fax numbers on the Do Not Call list, which does no good at all. And just to prove irony isn’t dead, the third prong of this pointless positioning was to provide citizens an avenue to register complaints about those who violated the first two tenets, which does not good at all. I am now convinced telemarketers obtain their phone numbers from the Do Not Call list.
I would like to be a little kinder about all this (and who wouldn’t?) but it is increasingly difficult to be even marginally civil to the people who are using our phones for their convenience. And when I say “people” you realize I don’t mean merely people. There is only one way to make telemarketers more annoying and it has been discovered. Our phones are now being inundated by robocalls. If you are foolish and/or bored enough to call the FCC to lodge a complaint, there is actually a prompt that inquires if the offending call was a robocall. You can press one (yes) or press two (no) all day long but answering this question, of course, does no good at all. Just yesterday I received a robocall on which the caller was speaking Japanese. Or Chinese. I took three years of Japanese but, embarrassingly enough, I could not tell with which language I was being assaulted. So far, the FCC does not have a prompt on the complaint line for foreign-language robocalls.
FCC chair Ajit Pai recently proposed measures to reduce unwanted robocalls. This is so ludicrous I have to respond to it (and who wouldn’t?). First of all, the statute is already on the books. Reduced to its sweet essence it reads: “Do not call people on the Do Not Call list.” And how is that working for us? For coming up with such wonderful ideas such as this one that was, not to put too fine a point on it, thought up 15 years ago, Mr. Pai makes $450,000 a year. I would like to make $450,000 a year (and who wouldn’t?). I would especially like to make $450,000 a year for doing nothing (and who wouldn’t?). If I were given the unbelievable honor of talking with Mr. Pai, I would ask him if the measures to reduce unwanted robocalls will interfere with desired robocalls. This is just a little FCC-esque humor to take to edge off my irritation with the whole mess.
A wise man once told me don’t complain unless you are going to offer solutions to the issue about which you are unhappy. So here is my fix … we cut Mr. Pai’s salary to something he deserves. I’d suggest minimum wage but that is an insult to those hard-working people who make minimum wage. So, something less than that. We take the savings from this and use it to hire people to hunt down telemarketers. We get the devotees of waterboarding to use their skills on the telemarketers until they give up the names of the big bosses. I am guessing this won’t take much water. Then we find the devotees of public flogging to apply their art to those who flagrantly ignore the law and those who flagrantly do nothing about it. I will volunteer to do the public flogging (and who wouldn’t?).
Marla Boone resides in Covington and writes for Miami Valley Today.