In the 1970s if someone had asked “Would your life be better or worse if phone calls were free?” I would have said, unequivocally, “better.” Now 95 percent of the calls that I receive are spam, usually with a robot on the other end.
If I could replace Donald Trump as supreme dictator, my first act would be to set a minimum price for (legacy network) phone calls of, e.g., 50 cents. There could be exceptions for friends-and-family circles. And maybe each phone line could get a monthly allowance as well. So the average resident of the U.S. would seldom incur this fee, but it would become uneconomic to use humans in India or robots in the U.S. to torture Americans with their own phones.
Phone companies are already heavily regulated, so I don’t see why this decree would be illegal. If the phone companies are getting crazy fat from these fees then presumably their monthly rates will come down a bit due to competition and/or regulation.
It doesn’t seem necessary to regulate voice communication via modern services such as Facebook, FaceTime, Skype, etc. Those services already require some authentication, right? And it is easy to say “just block anyone who isn’t on my contacts list”.
Related: Back in the 1980s, Ed Fredkin asked MIT students if they would resist a dictator who tried to install a bell right next to their heads in their bedrooms that could be run at any time of night. If we would resist the government imposing this on us, why would we do it voluntarily? (Of course, now the bell is in our pocket!)
Also related: Why wasn’t the phone system completely reorganized around 1985 such that people tell the carrier (a) when they’re available, (b) with whom they wish to communicate in the near-term? The carrier could then match up people who wanted to talk at a time when both were free to talk.
Finally: The country has its collective panties in a twist regarding net neutrality, with reasonable arguments on both sides about the extent to which the FCC should regulate Internet traffic. Meanwhile, everyone agrees that the FCC actually is supposed to regulate the legacy phone network and nobody complains that, under the FCC’s watch, the phone network has turned into an instrument of torture.