I never thought that in 2006 I would have number portability problems. Hasn't number portability regulations evolved to the point where it is no longer an issue? Alas, I found out the hard way that number portability is still very much a political game by the phone carriers and even the VoIP service providers to hold their customers hostage.
This was all related to my plans to dump Vonage and move back to a traditional carrier. I tried porting my phone number from Vonage to AT&T, but it couldn't be done.
I explained back then:
The FCC mandated that a customer's landline phone number may be transferred to any wireless provider whose coverage area overlaps where their landline number is provided. However, the FCC site on number portability makes no mention of porting a traditional landline or VoIP landline to another traditional or VoIP landline. This is a hole in the FCC's Wireless Local Number Portability (Wireless LNP) regulations that needs to be extended to include porting to other landline and VoIP phone providers.
Fortunately, the FCC heard my cries along with other VoIP users and recently extended the rules. As seen here on the FCC number portability page:
In addition, the FCC recently extended the LNP rules to interconnected Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) providers and determined that the rules would also apply to small wireline telephone companies that have not been granted waivers from the rules by their state public utility commissions. Therefore, subscribers remaining in the same geographic area can now switch from a wireless, wireline, or VoIP company to any other wireless, wireline, or VoIP company and still keep their existing phone numbers.
Great news! Now what if you don't want to port your phone number. Say you use Vonage with a 203 (Connecticut) area code and move to New York and want a new 212 area code phone number. (assuming any are still available since this is a popular area code). Well, you would think just like any traditional phone carrier, Vonage would allow you to cancel and then play a message saying "We're sorry, but the number 203-555-1212 has been changed. Please call 212-555-1234. This is a recording..." whenever someone called your old Vonage number. Well, your assumption would be incorrect. When I canceled my Vonage service, Vonage told me their would be no helpful message played to callers indicating the new phone number to reach me - just that the phone number was disconnected/not in service.
I was tempted to keep my Vonage service because I have friends and other contacts that knew my Vonage phone number. Sure, I would tell them my new number, but what about credit card companies or my bank that need to reach me for some reason? Who calls their financial accounts to update their phone number? Certainly not me. So I felt hostage to Vonage with them holding a gun to my phone number. Instead of backing off, I pulled the trigger when I told Vonage, "Go ahead, make my day. Now cancel my phone service!". In response, Vonage shot the hostage (my phone number) dead.
This is where the FCC needs to step in and mandate that VoIP providers act like the traditional carriers and offer a message playback for a new phone number. Are you listening FCC? Maybe we need to invite the FCC chairman Kevin Martin to ITEXPO so I can have a heart-to-heart with him about this issue. After all, we (TMC) did have former FCC Chairman Michael Powell keynote a prior ITEXPO event with rave reviews.