Comcast Corp. is accusing Verizon Communications Inc. of violating federal rules on transferring customer phone numbers to new providers in an attempt to impede competition in local phone markets.
Comcast told the Federal Communications Commission last week that Verizon refuses to transfer a number unless a customer who has elected to drop just local phone service also drops digital-subscriber-line service.
“This adversely affects competition and consumers,” Comcast said in a March 2 letter to the FCC, adding that Verizon’s noncompliance means that “Comcast is forced to cancel the orders of significant numbers of consumers who have affirmatively chosen Comcast as their phone provider.”
FCC number-portability rules requires the Baby Bells to transfer numbers to competitors except where it is not technically feasible. Comcast said Verizon likely can’t rely on the exception because other phone incumbents routinely transfer numbers in cases where customers want to switch phone carriers but continue as DSL subscribers.
“[Verizon’s] practices violate [federal law] and [FCC] rules,” Comcast said.
Last month, Tom Tauke, Verizon’s executive vice president of public affairs and communications, said that in the “not-too-distant future,” the company would unbundle voice and data products so that consumers can purchase DSL on a stand-alone basis.
“Today, it’s a technological issue. It’s not a marketing issue,” Tauke said. “I know there is a little bit of frustration in the business that we haven’t been able to make it happen to date.”
Comcast’s concerns about Verizon -- which first surfaced at the FCC more than one year ago -- came as the No. 1 cable company prepares to roll out voice-over-Internet-protocol service in 20 markets by the end of this year and across its 40 million-home footprint by the end of 2006. The company expects to sign up 8 million customers within five years.
But number portability is considered essential for new entrants because many consumers and small businesses are reluctant to go with a rival carrier if they can’t retain their phone numbers. Being issued a new number means customers have to spend time and even money to get the word out to family, friends and clients.