VoIP Number Hassle — You Can't Take It With You

Rob wrote to the Gripe Line to share the epic journey he took trying to port two phone numbers from Broadvoice to Vonage. The FCC decreed in 2003 -- under its line number portability (LNP) rules -- that consumers should be able to choose their phone carrier without losing their phone number in the process. Since then, it has been possible to take your landline to a cell phone or vice versa without the hassle of switching phone numbers. But when Rob tried to do just this recently, he found himself in a no-man's land of red tape and brick walls.

"I left Vonage for Broadvoice," he explains, "to take advantage of Broadvoice's offer of unlimited service to Brazil (where my in-laws live). But when Vonage offered a package that included Brazil in January, I wanted to switch back to Vonage to get their fax capabilities."

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Since the FCC took steps in 2007 to ensure that VoIP companies are included in the LNP rules so that consumers can take numbers from VoIP service providers to wireless, landline, or other VoIP providers, this seemed like an excellent -- and workable -- plan. Vonage agreed. But things did not go well.

"My 301 area code phone number transferred just fine," reports Rob. "That's the number I brought to Broadvoice when I arrived. But my 202 number wouldn't transfer." A representative at Vonage told Rob that she got a "name mismatch error" when trying to port his 202 phone number.

"Both the 301 and the 202 number were on the same account," says Rob, "so how could my name, address, and account information be different? I tried several variations: Rob, Robert. But nothing would get the number transferred."

A lot of people would have given up at this point, but Rob wanted those phone numbers and the FCC said he should be able to have them. He was determined. He turned his attention next to Global NAPS (GNAPS), the company Broadvoice got his 202 phone number from. "For some reason, Broadvoice doesn't want to give up numbers it acquired from GNAPS," he explains. "In its terms of service, it says it won't transfer any phone numbers it has assigned. This is even though the FCC says it has to."

Rob was very persistent, but GNAPS would not budge. Rob got some help from Cindy, a representative at Vonage, who finally managed to reach a person "who executes LNP transfers at GNAPS." But that person told Rob, "You're not a GNAPS customer, you're a Broadvoice customer. I can't do anything."

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