FCC Votes To Shorten Phone Number Porting Intervals

As expected, the FCC voted unanimously Wednesday to require landline, wireless and some VOIP phone service providers, to shorten their porting intervals.

In 2007, the FCC had tentatively concluded that it should shorten the interval from four days to two, but in the end decided to cut that number in half again, voting to cut the interval to one business day.

The commission a dozen years ago had set the four-day porting requirement for switching a subscriber's number to a new carrier, but decided that was too long an interval given changes in technology and the opportunity that four days could discourage subscribers from making the switch. The FCC also pointed out that the wireless industry's own voluntary standard was only about 2.5 hours.

Cable operators support the move, since they are increasingly trying to woo customers from phone companies via their bundled offerings.

“We are pleased that the FCC has unanimously supported shortening the period landline providers are required to port customer phone numbers to one business day," said Comcast in a statement. "This is a pro-consumer and pro-competitive action that Comcast has actively supported. Today’s decision is a win for consumers who have already saved billions of dollars a year because of the entry of cable companies into the local phone business. This makes it even easier for consumers to switch providers and take advantage of the growing competitive market.”

Calling it a victory for consumers, NCTA Presdient Kyle MCSlarrrow said: "“We commend the FCC on today’s decision to adopt a porting interval of one business day. In the current competitive environment, consumers benefit from a shorter porting interval for moving numbers when choosing a new provider. As consumer advocates, state commissions and elected officials have noted, when consumers can efficiently switch providers, prices are lowered and quality is enhanced."

The FCC said it would ask the North American Numbering Council (NANC) to come up with guidelines for shortening the porting interval, then give companies nine months to make the change after those rules are established. Smaller operators will get 15 months, with Copps pointing out that some of them may not have automated porting systems.

US Telecom, which represents phone companies, was not as happy with the decision. While saying the group supports the effort to reduce the porting time, US Telecom President Walter McCormick said that it would need to carefully review the decision given the complexity and expense of the process. "It will be important to understand how the Commission has satisfied its specific statutory obligation to enable providers to recover costs for implementing these regulatory requirements," he said. McCormick added that they will work with NANC to make sure consumers don't lose service because of the shortened intervals.

At the same meeting, the FCC voted, also unanimously, to require VOIP phone service providers to give subscribers notice when they are reducing or discontinuing operations, a requirment that already applies to traditional phone service.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.