FCC clarifies WNP rules

FRAMINGHAM (10/07/2003) - The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) this week issued an order on wireless number portability rules that attempts to limit barriers some service providers were seeking.

The Commission's order says wireless service providers must port a customer's wireless telephone number to the carrier of their choice regardless 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 PCS 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 goes on to say 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 in a press release issued Tuesday.

In other words, carriers have to figure out a way to connect their networks in "rate centers" where two carriers do not have network interconnection agreements in place.

The FCC is also recommending that carriers agree to fulfill all wireless number transfers within two-and-a-half hours of each request. The FCC says this is an accepted industry standard, but not one that they will make law. Instead, the Commission chose to make this a recommendation.

Wireless number portability is slated to go into affect in the top 100 markets on Nov. 24 with the remaining cities coming online within six months.

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