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Legal Memorandum: Wireless Carriers and Local Number Portability

Issue: Are wireless carriers required to provide local number portability?

Area of Law: Communications & Media Law
Keywords: Local number portability; Wireless carriers
Jurisdiction: Federal
Cited Cases: None
Cited Statutes: Telecommunications Act of 1996 § 251(b)(2); 47 U.S.C. § 251(b)(2);47 C.F.R. § 52.21(l)
Date: 08/01/2008

Local number portability or “portability” refers to the ability of a telephone service customer to keep the same telephone number when switching service providers.  Portability was originally required of local landline companies by a provision of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, 47 U.S.C. § 251(b)(2).  Under § 251(b)(2) of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, all local exchange carriers (LECs) are required to “provide, to the extent technically feasible, number portability in accordance with requirements prescribed by the Commission.”  47 U.S.C. § 251(b)(2).

In July 1996, the Commission (“FCC”) issued rules and deployment schedules to implement number portability.  See In re Telephone Number Portability, 11 F.C.C.R. 8352, (July 2, 1996) (“First Portability Order“), on recons., 12 F.C.C.R. 7236 (Mar. 11, 1997), further recons., 13 F.C.C.R. 21, 204 (Oct. 20, 1998).  Adopting the statutory definition of “number portability” in a regulation, 47 C.F.R. § 52.21(l), the FCC required LECs to begin implementing number portability to other LECs, and “to all telecommunications carriers, including commercial mobile radio services (CMRS) providers.”  CMRS is another term for wireless carriers.  See First Portability Order, 11 F.C.C.R. at 8355 ¶ 3.  Section 251(b)(2) imposed number portability on LECs, while the Commission relied on other statutory provisions to order CMRS—wireless carriers—to port numbers among themselves and to and from LECs.  11 F.C.C.R. at 8431-32 ¶ 153; see Cent. Tex. Tele. Coop., Inc. v. FCC, 402 F.3d 205, 206-07 (D.C. Cir. 2005).

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