The FCC today took steps intended to help clear the path toward nationwide number portability (NNP) by giving carriers that hand calls off to each other flexibility in deciding which carrier will query the number portability database and by granting competitive local exchange carriers the forbearance previously granted incumbent local exchange from legacy “dialing-parity” rules— thus ensuring that both incumbent and competitive carriers “will be able to route calls more efficiently in a future NNP environment.”
The FCC noted in a press release that it has asked the North American Numbering Council “to continue to provide input on the relative costs, benefits, and technical requirements of two of the possible nationwide number portability mechanisms, as well as the next steps the Commission and industry should take to achieve full nationwide number portability.” The NANC recently approved a working group report assessing various approaches to NNP and recommending further inquiry and analysis on NNP issues.
The report and order in WC dockets 17-244 and 13-97 adopted unanimously by the FCC at its meeting today “acknowledges that more complex and difficult leaps will be needed to reach fully operational portability. But, today’s steps, however minor, should be of help,” Commissioner Mike O’Rielly said.
“In particular, eliminating dialing parity requirements for new entrants is appropriate, especially since the Commission already struck them for incumbent providers who were the original problematic targets of the rules in the first place. Similarly, providing flexibility on when the local numbering portability database is queried will prevent carriers from duplication. For these reason, I will approve,” he added.
Commissioner Brendan Carr said, “Whether you view a particular number as a status symbol or, like me, enjoy a long-term relationship with your number – I have had mine since high school – Americans expect to keep their numbers even when they move across the country. So it may come as an unwelcome surprise to find out that number portability is not ubiquitous nationwide. The inability to take your phone number with you when you move or change carriers is both an annoyance for consumers and a burden on competition, particularly for small and regional service providers who may not be able to offer new customers the same ability to keep their phone numbers as larger, nationwide providers.”
He added, “So I am glad we are taking steps today to hasten the move towards nationwide number portability. Though we still have a ways to go to achieve full nationwide number portability, streamlining our regulatory requirements will enable carriers to more efficiently and flexibly route calls. I support this item and look forward to continuing to work with all stakeholders towards the full implementation of nationwide number portability.”
Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel supported the agency’s action but did not deliver a separate statement.
Chairman Ajit Pai said, “Today, we take another step toward empowering consumers to change carriers anywhere in the country without having to change phone numbers. Specifically, we amend our rules to allow carriers to decide amongst themselves which party should be responsible for querying the number portability database when routing a call. We also extend forbearance from interexchange dialing parity requirements to all carriers so that now there will be regulatory parity across all carriers.
“Now, I recognize that this all is pretty dry and technical. But this Order matters. It matters because we’re clearing away outdated rules to enable creative thinking about how calls can be handled more efficiently. It matters because we’re aiming to implement NNP in a way that most benefits and least disrupts consumers. My hope is that our actions today, and the ongoing work by the NANC and industry, will soon bring about NNP. That will result in more competition, consumer choice, and convenience,” he added.
Jonathan Spalter, president and chief executive officer of the U.S. Telecom Association, said in a statement, “Today, the Commission helped pave the way for the flexibility providers need to adapt networks to meet consumer demands — an important step toward achieving full nationwide number portability. The agency’s vote to amend its complaint rules is also a strong step for consumers, streamlining the complaint process so concerns are addressed promptly and appropriately.” —Lynn Stanton, firstname.lastname@example.org