Phone number portability assured in new FCC rules User can keep old one even when switching local carrier

June 28, 1996|By BLOOMBERG BUSINESS NEWS

WASHINGTON -- The Federal Communications Commission yesterday set up rules to make sure consumers and businesses may keep their telephone number even when they switch local carriers.

The rules have long been sought by AT&T Corp., MCI Communications Corp. and other companies that plan to compete in local phone markets.

The rules are mandated by the nation's new telecommunications law that opens up the local Baby Bell monopolies to competition.

Under the FCC rules adopted yesterday, local phone companies will be required to put systems in place in the country's biggest 100 markets by Dec. 31, 1998, that will allow customers to hold on to their numbers -- even if they switch from their local Baby Bell to MCI, for instance.

The local phone companies will be required to begin setting up their long-term systems no later than Oct. 1, 1997.

Between now and then, they will be required to use interim systems that would forward calls with a short delay.

The commission voted not to require a specific "number portability" technology.

The commission did, however, establish a set of nine criteria that local telephone companies need to meet with their systems.

Many local phone companies are expected to implement a system that uses a database to verify and switch all numbers being called before they're directed to the recipient.

That "location routing number" system involves no delay for the caller.

It's "the most competitively neutral mechanism," said Frank Simone, regulatory division manager at AT&T. AT&T developed that system, and FCC officials said the system meets the new criteria.

The Bells agree that the system is the best in the long term, but some had hoped they'd get a longer interim period to use less sophisticated, easier-to-deploy technology.

In other business, the FCC also moved toward verifying that wireless companies are authorized to sell "fixed" services.

This clarification is meant to encourage wireless companies to compete with local phone companies by providing a household's local phone service, for instance.

Pub Date: 6/28/96

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