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FCC rejects number portability delay

The FCC turns down a phone industry group's request to postpone rules allowing landline phone subscribers to take their old numbers with them when they switch to cell phones.

The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday denied a telephone industry association's request to postpone some phone number portability rules.

The United States Telecom Association (USTA) asked the FCC on Tuesday to delay rules for letting landline telephone subscribers keep their phone numbers when they switch to cell phone providers.

"We see no reason, based on the instant petition, to delay these benefits to consumers, carriers and to the competitive marketplace," the FCC wrote in its response. The rules take effect Monday.

The FCC dismissed most of the USTA's argument, but acknowledged that some cell phone users who convert back to landline phones still might not be able to take their numbers with them; there can be difficulties when someone moves to a different area code, an issue the agency is investigating. In the meantime, "petitioners have not demonstrated...they will be disadvantaged during the pendency of this further proceeding, much less that this harm will be substantial and irreparable," the FCC said.

In response to the rejection, the USTA said it asked the U.S. Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit, to review whether wireline carriers have to port a defecting customer's number to cell phone providers. The same court is already hearing a similar request from four rural telephone carriers.

The industry group was criticized by cell phone lobbyist Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association for launching its effort "in the 59th minute of the 11th hour."

Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain said this week he doubts the move will be successful. The effort doesn't have the backing of Qwest Communications International, a representative of the carrier said.