Court: Consumers Can Keep Numbers When Making Wireless Switch

A federal appeals court in Washington ruled last week that consumers should be allowed to keep their phone numbers — even their home numbers — when they switch to wireless service or change wireless providers.

The change in the Federal Communications Commission's wireless rules, scheduled to take place Nov. 24, has alarmed telemarketers, who fear they no longer will be able to distinguish residential lines from wireless lines. Presently, cell phones are distinguishable from home telephones because they are limited to certain ranges of telephone number extensions.

In addition to causing consumer annoyance, telemarketing calls to cell phones are illegal when made using automated dialing equipment.

Verizon Wireless and the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association sued to stop the change, and in April told the three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals that letting consumers keep their phone numbers will increase costs without accomplishing the FCC's goal of increased competition. The court rejected their appeal.

The Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association expressed disappointment in the court's decision and said the FCC must have final rules to govern the transition in place by Labor Day or risk chaos in the wireless market.

“This decision increases the pressure on the FCC to do what they have yet to do — define the implementation of number portability,” Tom Wheeler, president/CEO of the association, said in a statement. “There are only 24 weeks between now and the portability deadline, but the basic 'how tos' have yet to be addressed.”

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