Here’s a truly useful contest from [of all people] the Federal Trade Commission

In the United States, about 30 billion robocalls…are placed each year, and similar conditions hold across much of the world. In the U.S. and many other countries, most commercial robocalls are illegal. As part of an ongoing campaign against these illegal robocalls, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is launching its Robocall Challenge, seeking a solution that blocks illegal robocalls on cell phones and on landlines. It is offering a $50,000 cash prize for the best practical solution…

…Robocalling is very popular with a certain class of marketers whose services or products usually teeter on (or fall off) the border between misleading information and scams. The number of such calls…has skyrocketed with advances in technology, and government agencies are receiving huge waves of protests and complaints from their beleaguered citizens.

This has prompted the FTC to resort to using an innovation challenge for the first time. Hosted on, it joins other government-sponsored challenges designed to empower the public to bring their best ideas and talent to bear on our nation’s most pressing issues. The FTC Robocall Challenge is free to enter and open to the public, and also to companies having ten or fewer employees. Entries will be accepted until January 17, 2013…If a winning solution is identified, the FTC will announce the winner(s) early next April.

Calling all geeks. There probably are high school students who can come up with reasonable solutions to this question. That’s just the start. How about some unemployed coder who couldn’t afford to move to Silicon Valley or NYC?

Go for it!