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BellSouth eyes wireless portability fee

The company wants to charge monthly fees to recover the $38 million it spent to allow customers to keep their old telephone numbers after switching to a cell phone provider.

BellSouth wants to charge monthly fees to recover the $38 million it spent to allow customers to keep their old telephone numbers after switching to a cell phone provider.

Since May 1999, the carrier has been charging subscribers 35 cents a month for network upgrades needed to provide "number porting," a service that lets customers defect to another landline phone company. BellSouth now wants to collect a similar porting fee for customers who switch their numbers to cell phones, according to a filing Monday with the Federal Communications Commission.

BellSouth spokesman Bill McCloskey said the fee would total $1.21 per subscriber if collected in one lump sum. The amount collected increases to $1.32 per subscriber if stretched over six monthly bills.

The FCC filing comes a week before every U.S. telephone company in 100 major markets must offer number porting, which is expected to have a significant effect on the overall telephone industry. Wireless providers fear customer switching will skyrocket. /p>

Traditional phone companies BellSouth, Qwest Communications International, Verizon Communications and SBC Communications are bracing for an increase in people "cutting the chord" and subscribing only to a cell phone provider.

Bellsouth is asking the FCC to recognize any telephone company's right to collect a fee to pay for those choosing to cut the chord. The company filing is the first of two counterpunches against the mandate. BellSouth strongly hinted at challenging the FCC in court last week after it said the mandate affects both cell phone and traditional landline phone companies.