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FCC Rebuffs Landline Carriers

Washington – The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rebuffed landline phone companies that wanted to severely restrict the number of wireless-phone users who could transfer (port) their home or business phone number to a wireless phone.

For the time being, however, consumers will have to wait up to four days for landline carriers to complete the landline-to-wireless porting process while the FCC completes a formal rulemaking on whether to reduce the interval. The FCC mandates the four-day interval for landline-to-landline porting to spur competition among competing local landline services.

The rulemaking process normally takes 18 to 24 months but has sometimes been completed in as little as six months.

On Oct. 7, the FCC resolved the remaining issues that could have restricted and delayed the porting of a wireless-phone number from one wireless network to another (wireless-to-wireless porting).

In the top 100 markets, wireless-to-wireless and landline-to-wireless porting commences Nov. 24.

In its rebuff to the landline carriers, the FCC sided with the wireless industry, which contended that the landline carriers’ so-called rate-center argument would have prevented 85 percent of cellphone users from porting their landline number to a wireless phone. The landline carriers didn’t want to port a landline number to a wireless phone unless the wireless carrier had already acquired a batch of phone numbers assigned to the same rate center as the landline phone. (A rate center is a geographic area that’s often roughly equivalent to a local landline calling area). For wireless carriers, the local calling area is much larger, covering their licensed basic trading area (BTA). In general, wireless carriers haven’t acquired phone numbers from every landline rate center in their BTAs, and in a wireless BTA, the number of landline rate centers sometimes reaches into the hundreds

In their arguments, landline carriers complained of technical barriers and a reduction of the number of local phone numbers available to them.

In a second rebuff to the landline carriers, the FCC knocked down the argument that wireless carriers must amend their wireless-to-landline interconnect agreements before landline-to-wireless porting could be offered. In some states, those agreements have to be approved by state utilities commissions, threatening to delay implementation.

Landline carriers do have an out, however. Landline carriers in the top 100 markets can miss the Nov. 24 LNP deadline if ‘they can demonstrate that complying with these requirements would be technically infeasible,’ the FCC said.

In another nod to landline carriers, the FCC exempted landline carriers outside the top 100 markets from offering landline-to-wireless porting until May 24, citing technical limitations by small landline carriers.

Although the FCC paved the way for landline-to-wireless porting, it delayed implementation of the reverse process: wireless-to-landline porting. The FCC will consider rules for that process as part of its rulemaking involving the four-day porting interval. Rules will cover such issues as the technical and regulatory obstacles to porting a number from one rate center to another.