DMA: Telecom Administrator Withholds Landline-to-Cell Switch Data

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NeuStar Inc., a third-party administrator of the nation's telecommunications network, has ignored requests to help telemarketers avoid calls to consumers who switch landline numbers to cell phones, according to a letter from the Direct Marketing Association.

In the letter, addressed to the Federal Communications Commission, the DMA complained that it contacted NeuStar for data needed to determine when a landline number has been switched to a cell phone. According to the DMA, NeuStar had failed to respond.

"To date, NeuStar -- which will be the sole, centralized source of such data -- has ignored our repeated requests, effectively refusing to cooperate," the DMA said in the letter, dated Nov. 17 and sent yesterday by the DMA to DM News.

Starting Monday, consumers will be able to keep the same phone number when switching between wireless providers or from landlines to cell phones. The switches will present problems for telemarketers, who must avoid calls to cell phones when using automated dialers or face FCC fines.

Known as wireless local number portability, the initiative aims to increase competition in the telecommunications industry. NeuStar, one of the companies that administers the SS7 protocol that routes phone numbers between telecom carriers, has access to critical data that determine when a landline number has "ported" to a wireless service, the DMA said in the letter.

In response to the DMA's letter, NeuStar spokesman Bill Stern said his company was working with the FCC to solve the problem expeditiously.

"The FCC is very focused on this, as are we," Stern said.

The DMA sent the letter to the FCC to ask the agency to suspend enforcement actions against violations of the cell phone telemarketing ban that arise because of wireless local number portability. An FCC spokeswoman said the agency is reviewing the letter but currently has no plans to cease enforcement in any way.

The DMA offers a wireless suppression service known as the Wireless Block Identifier File. However, the file blocks only phone numbers in area codes, exchanges and number blocks that have been set aside for cell phones, not landline numbers that have been ported to cell phones.

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