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Rural Cell Phone Customers Can Switch Numbers May 24

For Immediate Release
Monday, May 17, 2004
Janee Briesemeister
(512) 477-4431 ext. 117

May 24 Cell Phone ‘Independence Day’ For Rest of Country
Consumers Union’s Tips for Transferring Your Cell Phone Number

(Washington, D.C.) — May 24 is “independence day” for cell phone customers living outside the Top 100 metro areas who were not included in last November’s federal rule allowing them to take their cell phone number with them when switching companies.
Consumers Union’s campaign, EscapeCellHell.org, today released tips for those consumers now getting access to “number portability” for the first time – about 20 percent of the population who live primarily in rural areas or smaller cities. Since November, about 2.6 million consumers living in major metro areas have taken advantage of number portability to shop around for better plans and prices.
“Although number transfers are working more smoothly today in the larger markets, many consumers suffered through days and weeks of glitches and delays as the implementation of cell phone number transfers got off to a notoriously rocky start,” said Janee Briesemeister, director of EscapeCellHell.org. She notes that 7,000 consumer complaints about number transfers were filed with federal regulators since November, when the rule went into affect in larger cities.
The Federal Communications Commission has given companies operating outside the top 100 markets until May 24 to implement the number portability rule, although Briesemeister said consumers shouldn’t expect their switches will go more smoothly than those who went before them.
“Consumers in the rest of the country should not expect a hassle-free experience,” Briesemeister added. “Number transfers may take several days at best, because many smaller cell phone companies are expected to use manual processes, such as sending faxes between carriers, rather than using fully automated methods to process number transfers.”
Many consumers in smaller markets also will not be able to transfer their home phone number to their cell phones, as the regulations require. That’s because hundreds of rural telephone companies are seeking waivers that put off this requirement for six months to a year or more.
“It’s disappointing rural phone companies are trying to delay giving customers the right to switch their home number to their cell phone, especially since they’ve had an extra six months to work out any kinks,” Briesemeister said.
Consumers transferring numbers can go to www.HearUsNow.org for these types of tips and more:
 Expect the transfer to take several days, at best, unless your new cell phone company can assure you the process is fully automated.
 Don’t cancel your service before you initiate the switch — that will happen when your new carrier requests the number transfer. If you are still under contract, you’ll have to pay a contract termination charge.
 Take your last bill with you to the new cell phone company. Your account number and exact billing name and address are necessary for a smooth transfer.
 Don’t expect that you can move your home number to your cell phone. Check with your local phone company first.
For CU’s general cell phone service shopping tips click here