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New legislation could make number portability easier

New legislation has been introduced in the Senate that could help expedite the process of transferring your existing phone number to another voice provider.

New legislation has been introduced in the Senate to make it easier for people to keep their current telephone numbers when they switch carriers.

Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), vice chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, and Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) on Wednesday introduced legislation that would expand the number portability rules.

The legislation would help expedite the number portability process, which allows people to transfer their existing cell phone number to another provider. Specifically, it proposes that the Federal Communications Commission establish timelines for cell phone operators and other voice providers to follow in porting phone numbers. And it would also help ensure that number portability rules apply to all voice services, so that consumers can take advantage of competitive choices in the market.

"This legislation would require the FCC to revisit its number portability rules and extend them to all applicable voice communications services, not just telecom services," said Stevens. "As a result, consumers will be able to take full advantage of new choices and cheaper prices as they become available."

Consumers have been able to take their phone numbers with them to another cell phone operator since late 2003. Since then, millions of people have exercised their right to do so, but the process has not always been smooth. And the senators say that if the process is burdensome or slow, it will likely deter many consumers from changing providers even when they are dissatisfied. Ultimately, that hurts competition and pricing for all consumers.