Keep Your Number: Cell Phone Number Portability Is The Law
When people began using cell phones it didn't take long for a number of annoyances and issues to arise.
While cell phones have been around for several decades it was not until the mid-late 90's that they truly became "mainstream". During this time a fierce competition between wireless providers mounted and price wars ensued. This prompted many customers to switch wireless service providers.
The downside to this effect was cell phone numbers being dropped, created, and even reissued at an alarming rate; all of which was amplified by the exponential growth in mobile phone adoption.
In 2003, as a response to this, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) passed a set of rules that allowed consumers to keep their cell phone number, even after they change service provider. The FCC called this "Wireless Local Number Portability". This meant that if a consumer wanted to port (or keep) a number, they would contact the prospective new service provider, who would start the process of porting by submitting a request to the current provider. FCC rules required carriers to port a number upon valid receipt of this request.
This didn't mean that any remaining contracts were not valid. If a consumer was one year and six months into a two year contract, any fees the existing provider was contractually entitled to in the event of early termination of that contract would still have to be paid.
If you are considering porting your number, here are a few tips to help avoid any hassle:
- Do not cancel your existing service before initiating service with the prospective new company. In some cases, the former company could delete your information in the interim and the number could be lost or reassigned to someone else so always leave the existing service active until the new service is set up and the number is ported.
- Be prepared to provide the new company with your 10-digit phone number, customer account number, and five-digit zip code, often the easiest way to do this is to bring a recent bill from your provider. The new provider should be able to use this to get the number transfer underway.
- If a service has not yet been cancelled, a company may not refuse to port a number.
- If you had a password protecting the former account you may need to provide that to the new service provider before they submit the request to be ported.
- Although wireless customers are now able to switch cell phone carriers at will , customers are still obligated to pay all previous charges or penalties to the previous company. It is important to find out ahead of time about any penalties the previous wireless carrier might incur for early termination of a contract. When possible, exhaust the contract period with your old service provider before porting the number, this will help eliminate cancellation fees. (Note, once your previous carrier has been told you will be porting your current cell phone number they must oblige even if there are existing charges)
Here are a few additional resources in case you have any other questions: