November 21, 2003 5:12 PM PST

Court won't put number transfers on hold

A federal court won't halt a rule that lets landline telephone subscribers keep their phone numbers when switching to cell phone providers.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia decided Friday to review the Federal Communications Commission's wireline-to-wireless number portability rule. The court won't make a final decision until after December, meaning the rule will still go into effect Monday.

However, the court agreed to hear the lawsuit filed by the United States Telecom Association (USTA), a telephone industry group, that says federal regulators "deliberately skewed" number portability rules in favor of wireless carriers. The trade group also charged that the rules "would dramatically deepen the regulatory disparity between the wireline and wireless industries and restrict the choices available to consumers interested in taking their phone number with them when they switch telecom service providers."

A representative for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, where the filing was made, could not immediately be reached for comment.

This is the second court action the USTA has recently brought over portability rules. Late Thursday, the USTA asked the same court to review a Federal Communications Commission order that said wireline carriers must let customers switch their telephone numbers to cell phone service providers.

The industry group has been criticized by cell phone lobbyist Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association for launching its effort "in the 59th minute of the 11th hour." Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain said this week that he doubts the move will be successful. The effort doesn't have the backing of Qwest Communications International, a representative of the carrier said.

 

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