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

Frustrated, Rob turned next to the FCC, which offers a form for complaints on this sort of thing at its Web site. And it has stated, "To keep the process as short as possible, the FCC recently clarified that companies may not obstruct or delay number porting by requiring you to provide excessive personal information before porting your existing telephone number."

Rob skipped the form and opted instead to call. "I found the number of a top-level person in the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau. I left her a voice mail, and she called me five times to find out what kind of problem I was having."

Meanwhile, Cindy at Vonage spoke to the Vonage legal team and tried to come up with a solution. "I had given a full synopsis of my efforts to her via e-mail," says Rob. "And she sent that e-mail to the legal team at Vonage, GNAPS, and Broadvoice." The result? More red tape and an estimated 45-day wait for the FCC to rule on his case.

Forty-five days later, Rob was about ready to give up and accept that he would have no choice but to get a new phone number in order to jump to Vonage. But then, at the 11th hour, he got an e-mail from GNAPS. This time the company would agree to transfer his number.

"The e-mail said nothing about their illegal policy against LNP, nothing about the six months of phone bills I have been paying to Vonage and Broadvoice simultaneously so I wouldn't lose my phone numbers. There wasn't even a 'sorry for your trouble,'" says Rob. But finally, in July, Rob had both of his phone numbers working on Vonage.

Broadvoice managed to deliver one final blow, though, as Rob was leaving. "Most companies terminate your service when the number is transferred," says Rob. But Broadvoice kept right on billing him. "After another call, I discovered they will only accept cancellations sent via e-mail to one certain e-mail address."

The FCC estimates the process of porting a phone number should take anywhere from a couple of hours to a few days. For Rob, "It was a 172-day journey during which I learned way more than I wanted to about the companies that own phone numbers."

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