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Inouye, Stevens: Shorten Number Portability

If a pair of powerful senators has its way, Verizon Communications and others will have less time to try to keep phone customers being wooed away by the competition, including cable.

In a letter Tuesday to Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin, Senate Commerce Committee chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) and reigning member Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) said they were concerned about the issue of number portability, which is the ability of phone customers to keep their number when they switch services.

They put in a pitch for shortening the time that new and old carriers can take to fulfill a request to "port" the old number to the new service.

That issue was prominent elsewhere in Washington, where the D.C. Federal Appeals Court received briefs on a case involving Verizon's efforts to retain customers after they receive that porting request. Cable operators argued that Verizon is unfairly using proprietary information to thwart those porting requests.

The senators suggested that the FCC might need to shorten that porting interval to "reduce the possibility of anticompetitive behavior" -- a point also made by the Consumers Union to the D.C. court in its briefing opposing Verizon's marketing practices.