WASHINGTON -- The Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday voted to impose a one-day time-frame to transfer consumers' landline phone numbers from one company to another.
The current standard is four days, but it can take up to a week for customers to take their landline phone numbers with them if their switch to a new carrier occurs near a weekend.
Advocates for the change say the long wait time puts off customers who otherwise would be lured by new, cheaper phone products such as "triple play" offers from some cable and phone companies that bundle television and Internet service.
Wireless companies have been advocating the shortened time frame because they believe it will help them convert landline customers to all-wireless service, as the wireless carriers say they can "port" cellphone numbers between cellular providers in a few hours.
A shortened porting period for landline phone service will be a boon to companies like T-Mobile USA, a unit of Deutsche Telekom AG, which offers a $10-a-month at-home Internet phone as an alternative to a landline connection. Sales of the at-home phone have been hampered by the long wait to port a potential customer's home phone number.
T-Mobile has been among the leaders in an industry lobbying campaign to shorten the phone number porting interval.
Smaller phone companies like Windstream Corp. have told FCC officials the costs of shortening the porting period are too great, requiring them to automate their systems or hire more staff.
The FCC considered waiving the one-day porting interval for smaller phone companies, but the commissioners instead decided to give those carriers a longer time to adapt to the change.
Under the rule, larger carriers will have nine months to comply, while smaller companies will have 15 months.
The FCC also voted to require Internet-based phone carriers to notify their customers and the commission before discontinuing or impairing their voice-over-the-Internet service, or VOIP. Traditional phone companies are subjected to similar requirements under the law.
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