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FCC to Slash Number 'Porting’ Time

5/17/2009 2:00 AM Eastern

The Federal Communications Commission voted unanimously last Wednesday (May 13) to require wireline, wireless and some voice-over-Internet-protocol telephone providers to shift a customer’s phone number over to a new carrier, on request, within one business day.

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

The FCC said it would ask the North American Numbering Council to develop 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 to make the change, with Copps pointing out that some of them may not have automated porting systems.

The commission set the four-day “porting” requirement a decade ago, but has cited changes in technology and attempts over that period by incumbents to discourage customers from completing the switch.

In 2007, the FCC tentatively concluded that it should shorten the original interval to two days from four days. Now it has decided to cut that number in half again, to one business day.

The FCC pointed out that the wireless industry’s own voluntary standard was only about 2.5 hours.

US Telecom, which represents phone companies, said it supports the effort to reduce the porting time but said it needed time to carefully review the decision given the complexity and expense of the process.

The FCC also voted unanimously to require VoIP phone-service providers to give subscribers notice when they are reducing or discontinuing operations, a current requirement that already applies to traditional phone service.