Commission Speeds Local Number Switches (and we helped)
Commission Speeds Local Number Switches (and we helped)
Commission Speeds Local Number Switches (and we helped)

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    It was nice that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) acted yesterday to facilitate what little competition there exists for consumers in the wired sector of the telecom world. The Commission ordered telecom providers to take only one day to process changes when consumers want to switch services. The requirement had been four days.

    It was just about a month ago that PK and Consumers Union wrote to Acting FCC Chairman Michael Copps asking for the Commission to get moving on the number portability issue.

    In our April 17 letter, we noted that we had written to then-chairman Kevin Martin a year earlier, asking the Commission to move “as expeditiously as possible.” After all, the Commission had considered the issue since 2003, taken three rounds of comments and issued a proposed rule 16 months ago. We told the Commission: “We believe the Commission should act now to adopt a one-day porting interval for wireline and intermodal ports.”

    As we noted: “Consumers should be able to change carriers without having to wait days and sometimes weeks to do so while their numbers are transferred from their old provider. The current four business day wireline porting interval deters consumers from considering alternative providers and is inconsistent with the continued development of a competitive telecommunications marketplace. The wireline porting interval was set by the FCC more than 12 years ago and has never been shortened despite significant improvements in technology. By contrast, wireless carriers accomplish simple ports within a matter of hours.”

    Far be it from us to claim that our letter spurred the Commission to action. However, we were pleased that the Commission said: “Specifically, we require all entities subject to our local number portability (LNP) rules to complete simple wireline-to-wireline and simple intermodal port requests within one business day.” That went well.

    It won’t happen overnight. In fact, large carriers can take up to nine months to implement the change, and smaller carriers have 15 months. However, consumers who have the ability to switch services, say to Voice over the Internet (VoIP) services or service offered by the local cable company or, in the remote instance, by a competing local telephone company, will benefit.

    That being said, however, the change would be much more meaningful if consumers really had a choice in local telephone service. Until the Commission gets around to restoring local competition through line-sharing, wholesale access and access to telephone and cable company advance service lines, the choices for service will continue to be extremely limited.