Under the Federal Communications Commission’s “local number portability” (LNP) rules, so long as you remain in the same geographic area, you can switch telephone service providers, including interconnected Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) providers, and keep your existing phone number. If you are moving from one geographic area to another, however, you may not be able to take your number with you. Therefore, subscribers remaining in the same geographic area can switch from a wireless, wireline, or VoIP provider to any other wireless, wireline or VoIP provider and still keep their existing phone numbers.
Initiating the Process
If you want to change companies:
- Do not terminate your service with your existing company before initiating service with the prospective new company.
- Contact the new company, which will start the process of porting your number by contacting your current company. Be prepared to provide the new company with your 10-digit phone number, customer account number, and five-digit zip code. If you had created a passcode to protect your account, you may also need to provide that passcode.
- Be aware that when terminating service with a wireless company, you may be obligated to pay any early termination fees under your existing contract. Also, when terminating service with any company, you are usually required to pay any outstanding balance owed. Review your bill or contract to determine what fees or charges apply. Once you request service from the new company, however, your old company may not refuse to port your number, even if you owe money for an outstanding balance or termination fee.
You may request service from a new company at any time.
Fees and Charges
- Companies may charge their customers fees to recover the costs that they incur in providing number portability. Fees may vary between companies, and some companies may not charge any fees.
- Companies may not refuse to port a number because a consumer has not paid for porting.
- When considering a switch, consumers should ask the new company whether it charges any number portability fees and whether those fees can be waived.
The Porting Period
FCC number porting rules require “simple” ports to be processed in one business day. The deadline applies to all simple ports, including “intermodal” ports such as wireline to wireless, wireless to wireline, wireline or wireless to VoIP or any other combination. Simple ports generally do not involve more than one line or more complex adjustments to telephone switching equipment.
If you port from a wireline phone to a wireless phone, there may be a period of “mixed service” – when you essentially have two telephones with the same number. Ask your new wireless company whether you will be able to continue using your current wireline number during the one-day transfer process. Also, if you port from a wireline phone to a wireless phone, your wireline long distance company will not move with you. Your long distance service will generally be provided by your new wireless company, but you should verify this with the new wireless company before changing service providers.
In some areas, 911 operators automatically receive the phone number or location of a wireless call, but in many areas, that is not the case. Technology that will provide that information – Enhanced 911 or “E911” – is currently being implemented, but is not yet available for some wireless phones and in some parts of the country.
As noted above, during the one-day porting process from the old company to the new company, there may be a period of “mixed service” - when you may have two telephones with the same number. During this time period, your E911 service may be affected. The call should go through, but the 911 operator may not be able to call you back if the call gets disconnected. For this reason, before porting either a wireless or a wireline number, ask the new company if the one-day porting process will affect a 911 call.
Handset and Special Services
In some instances, wireless handsets of different wireless telephone companies are incompatible. If you switch wireless companies, you may need to purchase a new handset, even if you retain the same phone number. If you have concerns about purchasing a new handset, ask your new wireless company whether or not your current handset will work with that company’s network.
Also, be aware that in a few areas, as consumers with ported numbers roam outside their normal wireless service areas, they may only be able to send and receive calls. Other services, such as caller ID, may not function properly.
Filing a Complaint
If you have a problem porting your phone number from one service provider to another, first try to resolve it with the service provider. If you cannot resolve the problem directly, you can file a complaint with the FCC. There is no charge for filing a complaint. You can file your complaint using an FCC online complaint form. You can also file your complaint with the FCC’s Consumer Center by calling 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322) or 1-888-TELL-FCC (1-888-835-5322) for TTY; faxing 1-866-418-0232; or writing to the Federal Communications Commission at:
Federal Communications Commission
Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau
Consumer Inquiries and Complaints Division
445 12th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20554
What to Include in Your Complaint
The best way to provide all the information the FCC needs to process your complaint is to complete fully the online complaint form. When you open the online complaint form, you will be asked a series of questions that will take you to the particular section of the form you need to complete. If you do not use the online complaint form, your complaint, at a minimum, should indicate:
- The telephone and account numbers that are the subject of your complaint;
- the names and phone numbers of any companies involved with your complaint;
- your name, address, email address and phone number where you can be reached;
- the amount of any disputed charges, whether you paid them, whether you received a refund or adjustment to your bill, the amount of any adjustment or refund you have received, an explanation if the disputed charges are related to services in addition to residence or business telephone services; and
- the details of your complaint and any additional relevant information.
For More Information
For more information on wireless number portability visit the FCC website.
For information about other communications issues, visit the FCC’s Consumer website, or contact the FCC’s Consumer Center using the information provided under “File a Complaint.”