- The Washington Times - Monday, May 18, 2009

NEW YORK | The Federal Communications Commission voted Wednesday to force land-line phone companies to act faster when their subscribers want to move their phone numbers to a rival service.

The commission will require companies to transfer, or “port,” land-line phone numbers within one business day, down from the current four-day requirement.

Wireless numbers are currently ported within one day — in many cases within hours — and the commission said land-line companies should be just as fast.

Land-line numbers can be transferred to competing land-line services, such as those from cable or Internet calling companies, or to cell phones.

The shortened porting period should take effect in about a year.



The FCC told the North American Numbering Council, which coordinates number issues for the carriers, to develop new procedures within about three months. The carriers will then have nine months to comply. Smaller carriers will get an extra six months, for a total of about 1½ years.

Stifel Nicolaus analyst Blair Levin said the order is likely to benefit wireless carriers and cable companies, while imposing new costs on smaller, rural phone companies like Little Rock, Ark.-based Windstream Corp. and Monroe, La.-based CenturyTel Inc. Such companies have fewer customers over which to spread costs.

Phone industry association USTelecom said that it supports the FCC’s efforts to reduce porting times but that given the complexities of the transfer process, the group needs “to carefully review the order to determine its practicality and its effect on our members.”

Acting FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps said that the commission has been encouraging the industry for years to shorten its porting intervals and that the time had come to force action.

Republican Commissioner Robert McDowell joined the two Democratic commissioners for a unanimous vote. The commission has two empty seats.

The FCC also voted to required Internet calling companies to notify their customers and the commission before shutting down. Some companies have abruptly departed from the business, most notably Sunrocket, which stranded 200,000 subscribers in 2007.

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