LI inventor testifying in D.C. about robocalls

Software developer Aaron Foss, who will speak to

Software developer Aaron Foss, who will speak to senators in Washington on Tuesday, has invented a program that hangs up on computer-generated calls — a far cry from the telephone’s early days. (July 2, 2013) (Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas)

Port Jefferson software developer Aaron Foss will be heading to Washington, D.C., this week to offer a Senate subcommittee his thoughts on robocalls -- those pesky, automated marketing calls -- and how to prevent them.

It's the second time in the D.C. spotlight for Foss, who won $25,000 from the Federal Trade Commission in April for his concept of a spam filter-like function that prevents a robocall from ever ringing a phone. Foss named the idea -- and the resulting company he is now building -- Nomorobo.

Legislators and federal regulators have been looking into a way to regulate and prevent robocalls as consumer complaints about them increase, and the panel -- which convenes Wednesday -- will be part of that process, a Senate committee spokesman said. More than 200,000 robocall complaints are filed with the FTC each month, according to the agency.

The Senate Commerce Committee asked Foss about two weeks ago to testify before the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Insurance, he said in an interview.

Other presenters include two representatives from the telecom industry and another individual who, like Foss, will speak about a potential solution to robocalls, a Senate committee spokesman said.

Foss said he has been working on coding the Nomorobo program and wants to launch a test version by the end of the summer. He is using the $25,000 FTC prize as seed funding for the company and hopes to raise more from investors.

Nomorobo makes use of telephones' simultaneous ringing function, which allows incoming calls to be routed to a second phone line. The Nomorobo program on the second line can analyze the caller ID, caller location and call frequency of the incoming call. If it detects a robocall, it will answer and hang up instantly, and the user's phone will never ring in the process.

Foss has worked as a freelance software developer for more than a decade and currently runs two businesses out of his home office in Port Jefferson. He is a co-founder of SmartChemo -- software that helps pediatric oncologists track chemotherapy orders -- and the founder of WingDipper, which makes easy-dipping containers for Buffalo wings.

After spending the weekend working on his oral and written statement, Foss said, he will speak about how Nomorobo functions and answer questions from senators on the panel.

"I'm basically going to be speaking about three things -- how my solution works, the commercial viability of it, and . . . concerns people have about [robocall] solutions like this," he said.

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