BEDMINSTER, NJ — With less than two weeks to go until all wireless and wireline telephone customers should be able to switch service providers while keeping their phone numbers, Verizon Wireless, operator of the nation's most reliable wireless network, today urged federal and state officials to ensure that all companies are in compliance with federal law. By seeking special waivers or simply not putting new systems and operations into place, some companies are now embarking down a road that would, in effect, hold their customers hostage by not allowing their customers to switch service providers by the May 24, 2004 deadline set forth by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The initial phase of the FCC's mandate went into effect in the top 100 markets in the United States in November 2003.
The Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association (CTIA) and member carriers including Verizon Wireless have offered assistance and guidance to regional carriers implementing local number portability (LNP) for the first time this May. Verizon Wireless has reached out to regional carriers to coordinate testing and has offered training assistance for regional service providers on the porting process. The company is concerned that some carriers are refusing to share basic porting information and to engage in testing, with only a very small portion of regional telecommunications companies actively testing their porting processes with other companies. Verizon Wireless noted that no carrier has an excuse for not being ready by May 24, especially given the extra time the FCC provided for preparation outside the largest markets. The ability to change service providers while keeping phone numbers is turning out to be a huge consumer benefit, and no company should deny their customers the freedom to take their numbers with them.
The FCC and the courts have spoken loudly and clearly about the importance of number portability for competition and consumer protection. The FCC also agreed with Verizon Wireless that porting should be quick and easy for customers. In contrast, many state regulatory commissions are considering granting last minute suspensions to regional wireline providers. A patchwork of non-compliant or excused carriers will make porting more complicated for customers and carriers and undermine the consumer protection and competition benefits offered by LNP.
A letter dated May 6, 2004 from the FCC's Chief of Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau, K. Dane Snowden, to the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners' President, Stan Wise, further stresses the importance of LNP readiness by rural carriers and encourages state commissions "to hold carriers that seek waivers of their porting obligations to the appropriate standard of review." Calling for the protection of all consumers' rights, Mr. Snowden added, "If relief were to be granted in the absence of extraordinary circumstances, or for indefinite periods, it would be a setback for rural consumers."
About Verizon WirelessVerizon Wireless is the nation's leading provider of wireless communications. The company has the largest nationwide wireless voice and data network and 39 million customers. Headquartered in Bedminster, NJ, Verizon Wireless is a joint venture of Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ) and Vodafone (NYSE and LSE: VOD). Find more information on the Web at www.verizonwireless.com. To receive broadcast-quality video footage of Verizon Wireless operations, log onto www.thenewsmarket.com/verizonwireless.####