FRAMINGHAM (10/14/2003) - The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last week issued an order on wireless number portability rules that says wireless service providers must port a customer's wireless telephone number to the carrier of their choice even if they have an outstanding bill. Wireless service providers, including Alltel Corp., AT&T Wireless Services Inc., Cingular Wireless LLC, Nextel Communications Inc. and Sprint Corp., were behind an effort to hold hostage phone numbers belonging to users with outstanding bills. The industry was up in arms over the suggestion that a business customer with a legitimate billing gripe would be forced to stay with a carrier until that billing dispute was resolved. The order also says that wireless carriers are not required to have direct network interconnections within specific areas in order to port a customer's wireless phone number. If wireless service providers "cannot reach an agreement on the terms and conditions of porting, they must port numbers upon receipt of a valid request, with no conditions," the FCC says.