My Cell Phone Number

MacRelevant – My Cell Phone Number
Tim Robertson
Publisher/Owner, Columnist, MacRelevant
Friday, 4/18/03

Not many people are aware of this, but the Federal Communications Commission (The FCC, for those of us who love our acronyms) has set a November 24 deadline for a rule that would allow you to keep your cell phone number, even if you switch cell phone companies. More, you will even be able to carry your land-based phone number over to a wireless company.

Guess who is not happy about this? You guessed it; the cell phone and landline based phone companies. They are in the process of lobbying hard to keep this requirement from happening. Actually, that date has been pushed back three time already by a complaining cell phone industry. But it appears that this time, the Nov. 24th deadline will stand.

I totally agree with this change. Why should I be inconvenienced because one cell phone company treats me like crap? For instance, company “A” has a horrible coverage area, pathetic customer service, and charges significantly more than company “B”. But for me to take my business away and move to company “B”, I would need to give up my phone number for a new one with the new company. That can be a serious pain for business people who rely on their mobile phones to conduct business. Think of how many contacts they would need to make simply to update everyone of their new phone number?

What are the cell phone companies worried about? First, the cost. As reported in The Washington Post, Cingular Wireless has spent $250 million preparing for the new requirement. Don’t ask me why it would cost them $250 million dollars to comply with this regulation. I understand that some equipment and software on their end would need to be updated, but $250 MILLION worth? What are they using, FoxPro on 386 PC’s?

Also, they are worried that it will make it easier for customers to move from one wireless carrier to another. As it is, loosing your phone number actually helps keep customers. This change would make it all too easy, they fear, for customers to simply change carriers.

Poor babies. Perhaps if they treated their customers better and done more to improve the capacity and clarity of the networks, then they would not have to worry about customer turnover so much. As it is, reports place 24 percent of all wireless customers changed companies last year. Almost one out of every four customers decided to switch to another company. That is a lot of new phone numbers. And what drove those customers to change carriers in the first place? Price? Customer service? Rate plans? Coverage area? A new free cell phone? Better clarity?

This change could also mark a significant change to land phones as well. If you could transfer your home phone number to a cell phone, which is always with you, would you want to? (So much for the answering machine business) I think this would be a very attractive option to many people, myself included. For those with broadband Internet connectivity, and a cell phone, what do you really need a landline for? (I would need one for my home security system, and I believe the TiVo’s use phone line as well.)

All in all, I think this is all good news for the consumer. I can understand why the Verizon’s and SBC Communications of the world don’t like this. It puts more power of choice in the hands of the consumer, and big businesses, regardless of what they may say in their advertising, do not like that. I think this will foster even more competition, and give the little people (you and I) more leverage.

Thank you, FCC, for doing the right thing for the people. For a government agency, that is a rare thing indeed.

Tim Robertson

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