FCC rules prevent telephone companies from abruptly discontinuing or reducing service for any reason, including bankruptcy. The rules, which also apply to Voice-over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service, are designed to protect you from an abrupt change or termination of service and to allow time to arrange service with another provider.

Consumer notice requirements for changes to phone service

U.S. providers planning to discontinue or reduce domestic wireline service are required to:

  • Notify affected customers in writing about any such plans and inform them of their right to file comments with the FCC.
  • Request permission from the FCC after notifying customers.
  • Continue providing service temporarily – 31 days for smaller providers and 60 days for larger providers – after the FCC releases a public notice announcing and seeking comment on the service provider's proposal. The FCC can extend the termination date.

International telephone service providers must notify customers 60 days in advance.

Filing objections to changes with the FCC

If you object to a provider's plan to discontinue or reduce service, you can respond to the public notice, which will include procedures and a deadline for filing comments. The FCC will consider objections and other comments when evaluating the request.

The FCC usually authorizes a provider's request unless customers are unable to receive similar services or a reasonable substitute from another provider.

Options if your service is transferred

If a telephone service provider sells or transfers its customer base to another company, FCC rules say:

  • The acquiring company must provide customers 30 days' advance notice of the transfer, including rate and service information.
  • Customers may opt to stay with the acquiring company or choose another company.

If your account has been transferred to an acquiring company without adequate notice, you may be covered by the FCC's slamming rules. For more information, read our Slamming consumer guide.

Wireless service

If a wireless provider discontinues or reduces your service without cause or notice, leaving you without alternative telephone service, you can file a complaint with the FCC.

Print Out

When Your Telephone Company Discontinues Service Guide (pdf)


Date Last Updated/Reviewed: 
Friday, September 8, 2017