News

FCC Shrinks Phone Number-Porting Window

5/13/2009 3:32 PM Eastern

As expected, the Federal Communications Commission voted unanimously Wednesday
to require wireline, wireless and some voice-over-Internet phone service
providers to shorten their porting intervals.

In 2007, the FCC had tentatively concluded that it should
shorten the interval from four days to two, but in the end decided to cut that
number in half again, voting to cut the interval to one business day.

The commission 12 years ago had set the four-day porting
requirement for switching a subscriber's number to a new carrier, but decided
that was too much time, given changes in technology and the opportunity that
four days provided to discourage subscribers from making the switch. The FCC
also pointed out that the wireless industry's own voluntary standard was only
about two and a half hours.

Cable operators support the move, since they are
increasingly trying to woo customers from phone companies via their bundled
offerings.

"We are pleased that the FCC has unanimously supported
shortening the period landline providers are required to port customer phone
numbers to one business day," said Comcast in a statement. "This is a
pro-consumer and pro-competitive action that Comcast has actively supported.

"Today's decision is a win for consumers who have already
saved billions of dollars a year because of the entry of cable companies into
the local phone business. This makes it even easier for consumers to switch
providers and take advantage of the growing competitive market."

Calling it a victory for consumers, National Cable &
Telecommunications Association president Kyle McSlarrrow said: "We commend the
FCC on today's decision to adopt a porting interval of one business day. In the
current competitive environment, consumers benefit from a shorter porting
interval for moving numbers when choosing a new provider.  As consumer advocates, state commissions and
elected officials have noted, when consumers can efficiently switch providers,
prices are lowered and quality is enhanced."

The FCC said it would ask the North American Numbering
Council to come up with guidelines for shortening the porting interval, then
give companies nine months to make the change after those rules are
established. Smaller operators will get 15 months, with acting FCC chairman
Michael Copps pointing out that some of them may not have automated porting
systems.

USTelecom, which represents phone companies, was not as
happy with the decision. While saying the group supports the effort to reduce
the porting time, USTelecom President Walter McCormick said that it would need
to carefully review the decision given the complexity and expense of the
process.

"It will be important to understand how the Commission has
satisfied its specific statutory obligation to enable providers to recover
costs for implementing these regulatory requirements," he said, adding that
USTelecom will work with NANC to make sure consumers don't lose service because
of the shortened intervals.

At the same meeting, the FCC also voted unanimously,
to require VoIP phone-service providers to give subscribers notice when they
are reducing or discontinuing operations, a requirement that already applies to
traditional phone service.

March