June 16, 2003
1101 Vermont Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20005
WASHINGTON, DC – On June 16, 2003, the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC), the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), Consumers Union (CU), the Consumer Federation of America (CFA), the National Association of State Utility Consumer Advocates (NASUCA) and the e-Commerce and Telecommunications Users Group (eTUG) sent a letter to Congress, urging members to oppose any legislative measure to further delay the scheduled November 24, 2003 deadline for wireless phone providers to provide local number portability (LNP). Wireless LNP allows consumers to keep their phone numbers when switching wireless carriers or when switching between wireline and wireless carriers.
The wireless industry, led by its trade association – the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA)- is seeking congressional support for more delay in the form of an amendment to un-related legislation or an appropriations rider. Either would preclude the industry from providing LNP to American consumers in the top 100 metropolitan service areas by the FCC’s November 24, 2003 implementation deadline. To date, the industry has successfully petitioned the FCC for three additional delays of the deadline originally established by a 1997 FCC order. Overall, the industry has had effectively four delays and six and a half years to roll out wireless LNP.
NARUC Telecomm Committee Chairman, Commissioner Robert B. Nelson of Michigan stated:
“NARUC and consumer groups throughout the country have been saying for seven years wireless telephone customers should be able to keep their telephone number if they switch carriers. No one can seriously dispute the facts: LNP is in the best interest of consumers, LNP clearly promotes competition on the basis of price and service quality, and LNP preserves telephone numbers. As noted in our letter, analysts tell us the industry has already basically invested the funds needed to make LNP a working proposition. There is no further reason for yet another delay. Wireless customers should receive the benefit of number portability by November 24 of this year and not a day later. After all, many are already paying for it by way of a separate surcharge in their bills now.”
The June 16th letter states: “Wireless LNP makes it easy for customers to take their business elsewhere when they are dissatisfied with the quality of the service offered. The end result is increased competition and greater customer satisfaction.” Addressing the issue of carrier cost, the letter notes that Wall Street analysts’ reports indicate the industry is prepared to meet the November 24th deadline and has invested over 90 percent of the funds needed to implement this requirement. Moreover, many wireless carriers have already begun charging their customers for LNP, collecting fees for LPN while they actively lobby Congress for special exemption from the LNP rule.
At the conclusion of the letter, the signers urge Congress to reject continued wireless industry efforts to “obscure, delay and confuse consumers and regulatory authorities regarding an important means of promoting competition and improving service quality in the wireless marketplace. . . [t]he American public strongly supports wireless LNP. Please do not allow the wireless industry to once again thwart consumer choice and competition in order to protect profits by keeping customers captive.”
NARUC is a non-profit organization founded in 1889. Its members include the governmental agencies that are engaged in the regulation of utilities and carriers in the fifty States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. NARUC’s member agencies regulate telecommunications, energy, and water utilities. NARUC represents the interests of State public utility commissions before the three branches of the Federal government and the Independent Federal agencies. Additionally, NARUC files briefs and pleadings before the U.S. Supreme Court and other Federal courts in support of State utility commission interests. NARUC also provides the Executive Branch with policy proposals and works with the Departments on the formulation of regulatory policies. NARUC works closely with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, FCC, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, SEC, and the FTC to ensure that the State perspective is considered in their proceedings.