Today Federal Communications Commission adopted an order addressing key implementation issues for its requirement that carriers provide number portability within one business day of a request. The one-day porting requirement goes into effect on August 2 for larger carriers and February 2, 2011 for smaller carriers. The order is available on the FCC web site at http://www.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2010/db0520/DOC- 298303A1.pdf and the press release describing the order is available at http://www.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2010/db0520/DOC- 298303A1.pdf.

OVERVIEW

This order is intended to address issues that could have held up implementation of the FCC’s 2009 Porting Interval Order. That decision changed the previous number portability rules to require that carriers provide “simple ports” within one business day of a request.1

One of the key questions left open in the 2009 order was what information has to provided to the old carrier (that is, the carrier that is losing the customer) by the new carrier for a request to qualify for oneday porting. The FCC received two proposals, one requiring new carriers to complete a form with 14 fields and the other requiring only 8 of those fields. As today’s order explains, while the FCC’s rules did not require a standard form, “the industry has expressed concern that meeting the Commission’s one-business day porting interval . . . will be difficult without standardization of information fields” used to order portability. The FCC chose to adopt the 14-field proposal, which was offered by the North American Numbering Council (“NANC”), but at the same time determined that, with one exception, carriers would not be allowed to require any other information in a port request.

The order also considered the “provisioning process flows” for number portability – that is, the specific steps in the process of implementing a port request. The FCC adopted the process flows recommended by the NANC. Finally, the FCC adopted the NANC’s proposal for defining when the time to implement a port expires.

THE REQUIRED FIELDS

The FCC’s most important conclusion was that all port requests should include the same information. From the FCC’s perspective, this was the most important goal because “standardization and uniformity are of greater importance than the precise number and substance of the fields.” At the same time, the FCC concluded that the fields it decided to require – the 14 fields proposed by the NANC’s working group –

strike the right balance between minimizing the number of simple ports that fall out of the porting process—or are not completed due to errors—and the burden on the industry, ensuring that consumers are able to reap the most benefit from the shortened onebusiness day porting interval.

The fields required by the FCC fall into three basic groups: information about the service provider; information about the customer; and information about the port itself.

Information about the Service Provider Half of the fields relate to the new service provider and its relationship to the customer. They are:

  • Customer Carrier Name Abbreviation (CCNA) – Identifies the company that submitted the Local Service Request and to whom response messages must be returned.  
  • Company Code (CC) – Identifies the exchange carrier initiating the transaction.  
  • New Network Service Provider (NNSP) – The Number Portability Administration Center Service Provider Identifier of the new network service provider.  
  • Purchase Order Number (PON) – The customer’s purchase order or requisition number that authorizes issuance of the request or supplement.  
  • Agency Authority Status (AGAUTH) – Indicates that the customer is acting as an end user’s agent and has an authorization on file.  
  • Telephone Number (Initiator) (TEL NO (INIT)) – The telephone number for the initiator of the port request.  
  • Version (VER) – The submitting service provider’s order version number.

 Information about the Customer

Only two fields relate to the identity of the customer. They are:  

  • Account Number (AN) – The account number assigned by the current service provider.  
  • Zip Code (ZIP) – The zip code of the end user’s service address.

These two fields are used to ensure that the number being ported matches up with the customer. Although neither the customer name nor the street address is required, in practice the account number and zip code should be sufficient for simple ports, since there should be a unique service address associated with each account.

Information about the Port

The five remaining fields all relate to the mechanics of the porting process. They are:

  • Ported Telephone Number (PORTED NBR) – The telephone number or consecutive range of telephone numbers residing in the same switch to be ported.  
  • Desired Due Date (DDD) – The due date for the port.  
  • Requisition Type and Status (REQTYP) – The type of order to be processed.  
  • Activity (ACT) – The activity involved in the service request.  
  • Number Portability Direction Indicator (NPDI) – This field lets the new service provider direct the correct administration of E-911 records.

The ported telephone number and due date are fields that the industry agreed should be included, since they are integral to the porting process. The FCC concluded that the requisition date and activity fields were necessary because the local service request form used to initiate porting can be used for many purposes, and including this information would prevent confusion about whether a port was requested. The direction indicator field was included because of concerns that E-911 information might not be transmitted properly to public safety agencies if it was not part of the form.

Passcodes

One important difference between the list of fields adopted by the FCC and the requirements adopted in earlier number portability orders is that there is no mandatory field for customer passcodes. Carriers were allowed to require passcodes for portability by a 2007 order that limited the information they could require about the customer.

In this order, the FCC decided that passcodes should be included on the list of permissible fields, but should not be mandatory for all ports. More significantly, the FCC provided new guidance that limits the circumstances in which passcodes can be required. It determined that the only time a passcode can be required is when “it has been requested and assigned by the end user.”

This clarification will greatly limit the circumstances in which passcodes will be required for number portability. As a consequence, it effectively removes a barrier that some carriers have been imposing on number portability.2

The FCC’s treatment of passcodes is much like its treatment of preferred carrier freezes, which also can be imposed only at the customer request. Unsurprisingly, the FCC’s explanation for its decision also paralleled the analysis it used when it banned carrier-imposed freezes:

Because customers may be unaware of carrier-initiated passcodes at the time they choose to port their number, we believe that making the passcode field mandatory for carrier-initiated passcodes would delay the porting process by requiring customers to contact their current service providers for this information. We are concerned that this additional step for the customer would also add a layer of frustration and complexity to the number porting process, with anticompetitive effects.

This decision does not affect passcodes assigned to customers under the FCC’s existing privacy rules. The only effect is to prevent carriers from using those passcodes as mandatory elements of a request to port a telephone number.

PROVISIONING PROCESS FLOWS

When the FCC first implemented number portability in the late 1990s, one of the most important parts of that process was the adoption of descriptions of how porting would be provided. These “process flows” had to be modified to account for the shorter turnaround time under the new rules. The FCC approved the NANC proposal for the new process flows.

The order identified several specific changes from the existing processes that are necessary to implement one-day porting. First, the FCC agreed that the old carrier should be required to provide customer service records to the new provider within “24 clock hours” of a request, excluding weekends and holidays.

In addition, the order adopted the NANC recommendation that passcodes may not be required to obtain customer service records. Like the limitation on the use of passcodes in porting requests, this will reduce the ability of old carriers to block ports. Despite requests from some carriers, the FCC declined to decide what other information can be required in a request to obtain a customer record and also declined to change the NANC recommendations to otherwise limit access to customer service records.

While declining to make changes to the NANC recommendations, the FCC recognized that “ongoing changes to process flows will likely be warranted to meet the changing demands of the industry.” However, it also concluded that it would be most prudent to depend on the NANC to determine when changes are necessary.

DEFINING THE ONE-DAY INTERVAL

One issue that was not addressed by the FCC’s 2009 Porting Interval Order was how to determine if the one business day deadline had been met. As it did elsewhere in this decision, the FCC adopted the NANC recommendations for determining when a port must be completed.

The NANC proposal sets minimum periods for standard business operations. These periods require the standard work week of Monday through Friday, and expect business hours from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. If a port request is received between 8:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m., it is to be completed by midnight. If a request is received after 1:00 p.m. and before 8:00 a.m. the next morning, it is to be completed by midnight of the next day. (For instance, a port request received at 9:00 a.m. on Monday is to be completed before 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, and a port request received at 2:00 p.m. on Monday is to be completed before 12:01 a.m. Wednesday.) Orders received after 1:00 p.m. on the day before a weekend or regular holiday for the old carrier are to be completed by midnight on the day following the end of the weekend or holiday. (For instance, a request received at 3:00 p.m. on Friday would be completed by midnight Tuesday, assuming Monday is not a holiday.)

In addition, the old carrier is required to return a firm order confirmation within 4 hours of the request, again with exceptions for weekends and holidays. The FCC adopted this interval even though some smaller carriers were concerned that they might not be able to meet the deadline because they use manual processes.

TIMING

Although the original deadline for implementation of the one-day porting interval is approaching rapidly, the FCC did not modify the timeline. As a consequence, larger carriers still will be obligated to implement the new interval by August 2 and smaller carriers must implement it by February 2, 2011.

IMPLICATIONS

While this decision did not adopt the shorter list of required fields that some competitors (and particularly the cable industry) would have preferred, the FCC’s conclusion that it was most important to adopt a specific, limited list likely is correct. Because half of the required fields relate to the new provider, providing that information should not be difficult, and should be, at most, a minor impediment for carriers seeking to port telephone numbers.

The FCC’s decision to greatly limit the use of passcodes may, in fact, be more significant than the adoption of the longer list of fields. Very few customers are likely to ask for and create their own passcodes, so old carriers will find it difficult to use passcodes to block competitors from taking their customers. Although not very many carriers had adopted passcodes, the decision will effectively eliminate the competitive incentive to do so.

It also is noteworthy that the FCC did not change the implementation date for oneday porting. Given the time it took to adopt this order, a delay was a possibility. Retaining the deadline shows the FCC’s commitment to shortening the porting interval, and may suggest that the decision in the FCC’s pending rulemaking on the interval for more complex ports will be aggressive as well.