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Verizon begins compliance with FCC rule

The wireless carrier begins complying with a federal mandate that requires carriers to let customers keep the same cell phone number if they change service providers.

Verizon Wireless has begun complying with a federal mandate that requires wireless carriers to let customers keep the same cell phone number if they change service providers, a representative said Tuesday.

Despite its leadership role in the industry's fight against the Federal Communications Commission's "number portability" requirement, Verizon sent letters to rival carriers this week notifying them that they should "be ready to allow their customers, should they choose to come to Verizon, to bring their numbers with them," Verizon Wireless representative Jeffrey Nelson said.

All wireless carriers have until Nov. 24 to comply with the FCC mandate, which is meant to conserve the shrinking pool of 10-digit phone numbers assigned to North American wireless users.

Number portability proponents, generally wireless customers, say that keeping a phone number is a customer benefit that could increase competition among carriers. But Verizon is the lead plaintiff in a court battle against the FCC rule; along with all the industry's major carriers, the company claims the FCC didn't build a strong enough case for its requirement. The carriers say that implementing the rule could cost each of them $1 billion.

"We are fighting the FCC's authority but preparing in the event we don't win the court case," Nelson said. A U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., is scheduled to listen to carriers' arguments against number portability on April 15, Nelson said.

The letters Verizon sent to rivals are part of the FCC method for complying with its mandate, Nelson said. T-Mobile sent rivals similar letters, according to Nelson.