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FCC To Make Cellular Porting Faster

5/13/2009 03:12:00 PM Eastern

Washington — Cellular retailers will have some good news for customers who want to switch carriers when they buy a new phone.

The Federal Communications Commission today required wireline, wireless and select Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) providers to port a customer’s phone number to a competing carrier’s service within one business day, down from the current four days.

The requirement, however, doesn’t go into effect for about a year.

With the exception of small carriers, providers must implement the new porting interval within nine months after the FCC gets input from the North American Numbering Council (NANC) about the decision, the FCC said. That input is due in 90 days. Small carriers get 15 months after inpout is provided by NANC, which is a federal advisory committee that advises the FCC on phone-number issues.

“Delays in number porting cost consumers money and impede their ability to choose providers based solely on price, quality and service,” the FCC said of its decision.

In another decision affecting VoIP providers, the FCC said VoIP providers whose customers place calls to, and receive calls from, the public phone network, must notify customers before they “discontinue, reduce or impair service.”

“Interconnected VoIP providers can no longer close shop without notice, leaving customers unexpectedly without phone service or recourse,” the agency said.

Traditional landline carriers are already subject to the requirement.

“Consumers are increasingly using interconnected VoIP to replace analog voice service, and their expectations for notice, access to emergency 911 service and other consumer protections are the same as users of conventional voice service,” the FCC said.