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Difficulty of Porting Telephone Numbers from Carriers Highlighted in House Hearing

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WASHINGTON, July 22 – A Tuesday House subcommittee hearing on competition in the telecommunications industry focused on the ability of consumers to switch, or “port,” their telephone numbers from one carrier to another in a timely fashion.

The witnesses on the panel, before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, agreed that it took too long for customers to port their telephone numbers to other companies.

Cathy Avgiris, senior vice president and gneral manager of voice ervices for Comcast Cable said that a denial of interconnection by telecommunications carriers constituted a denial of competition.

In an unusual decision by the Federal Communications Commission earlier this month, the agency held on a 4-1 vote that Verizon Communications was misuing information it obtained as from three cable companies – Comcast, Bright House and Time Warner – as part of the telephone porting process. In particular, they claimed that Verizon was offering price discounts to customers seeking to “port” their numbers to cable competitor.

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin dissented, siding with Verizon.

At the hearing, panelists said that customers prefer to keep their existing telephone numbers, even as they switch to competitors. The process currently takes about four to five business days. Avgiris said the time would drop with greater competition.

Former Rep. Matthew Salmon, R-Ariz., currently president of Comptel, a trade association of Bell company rivals, highlighted the importance of the competitive industry players.

Larissa Herda, CEO of Time Warner Telecom, a spinoff of Time Warner (which used to own the significant cable operator Time Warner Cable), said that her company, a competitive telecommunications player, wanted the subcommittee to be more aggressive in overseeing the FCC.

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