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DATE:  November 24, 2003
Contact Person:  Sue Schaefer, Information Officer 
Contact Phone:  605-773-3201

Consumers Need To Be Aware of Telephone Number Portability Issues

New federal rules will now make it possible for many American consumers to keep their phone numbers when they switch between telephone providers.

"Wireless local number portability" (WLNP) takes place in the top 100 U.S. markets on November 24, 2003. However, for South Dakotans, the new rules won't take effect until May 24, 2004, or later, since no South Dakota markets fall in the top 100 U.S. metropolitan statistical areas.

"Federal rules already allow consumers to keep their numbers when they switch between landline companies," said Public Utilities Commission Vice Chairman Gary Hanson. "With the implementation of these new rules, consumers will be able to keep their phone number regardless of the technology they choose. Consumers will, however, need to keep in mind that there are geographical restrictions to where numbers can be moved between providers."

"Keeping your phone number will be a big benefit for South Dakota consumers," said Chairman Bob Sahr. The new rules will give our consumers another tool in making informed buying decisions and will remove the barrier of losing your phone number when you switch providers."

The new Federal Communications Commission regulations state that once a wireless carrier is requested by another carrier to provide WLNP, one of two guidelines applies: Wireless carriers must be capable of implementing WLNP six months after receiving the request, or six months after November 24, 2003, whichever is later. This could delay implementation until May 2004 or later in states like South Dakota.

"However, some companies have indicated that they will voluntarily comply with the federal requirements as early as November 24, 2003 in South Dakota," says Commissioner Jim Burg. "You should check with both your current company and your prospective company to see if they will voluntarily move your number."

The PUC has a checklist for consumers wanting to make a switch. First, portability will not release consumers from the obligations of their contract with their current wireless provider. Penalties may apply for early termination. Second, consumers who switch wireless companies may possibly have to purchase a new phone to become compatible with the new company's technology. Third, if they move to a different geographical area, consumers will not be permitted to take their number with them. A consumer wishing to transfer a number from a cell phone to a landline can do so if their current exchange, the three digits following the area code, falls within the same geographical area.

For more information on Wireless Local Number Portability, you may visit on the World Wide Web.