Saber Rattling and Local Number Portability

The Cellular Telephony Industry Association (CTIA) is doing its best to slow the arrival of Local Number Portability this November. Tom Wheeler, the head of the CTIA went to the FCC today to present to them a list of issues the regulators need to resolve before the carriers can possibly implement LNP. I’d call this grandstanding and saber rattling. I don’t agree that LNP is good for America right now: The FCC claims that it will stimulate competition, but this industry has almost 30% of its customers churn each year. It is already very competitive, so LNP is more a matter of convenience for subscribers than a competitive issue. Expensive convenience issues should only be mandated at times when the economic conditions are better. However, I don’t think the FCC is bluffing, and any amount of saber rattling will not succeed in significantly extending the deadline. I believe the carriers will test the boundaries to find out exactly where they are, and will learn that the boundary lies somewhere around November 21. Carriers will be late, fines will be imposed, carriers will grudgingly comply. Americans should expect to be able to take their phone number with them when they switch carriers sometime in 2004.

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