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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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All cell users can now keep their numbers

Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Starting Monday, people in Spokane and North Idaho can take advantage of rules allowing cellular users to keep their phone numbers when switching to new wireless carriers.

The rules first went into effect last November in the 100 most populous metropolitan areas. On May 24, the Federal Communications Commission will expand its “number portability” rules to the rest of the country. Cell phone users in the Inland Northwest now can take advantage of that option, said Dennis DeSmith, director of business integration for Verizon Wireless.

Consumers also can transfer a number from a traditional landline phone to a cell phone if the exchange — the three digits following the area code — falls within the same geographic area.

Monday’s extension of the rules is not expected to be met with an enormous surge in requests for transfers since most of the country has already had the opportunity to switch. The FCC estimates that about 70 percent of the population has already been eligible to apply for number transfer following the Nov. 24 authorization date for the top markets.

For the remaining 30 percent, making the switch should be a mostly smooth process, says K. Dane Snowden, head of the commission’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau.

“The majority of carriers are ready,” said Snowden, though he added, “We do anticipate some hiccups initially in this process.”

For some carriers, he said, delays in transferring accounts are likely.

The FCC set a goal that the transfer from one wireless company to another should take only about 2½ hours. Many consumers, however, complained early on that transfers were taking days, and in some cases weeks.

The FCC logged 2,400 complaints in the first month after the rules took effect last year. AT&T Wireless received the most complaints, and blamed a software glitch for the problems.

DeSmith said efforts by Verizon to streamline the process should eliminate most complaints. He said most people moving numbers to or from Verizon should expect the process to take 2½ to 3½ hours

About 2.6 million wireless customers have switched to new carriers since Nov. 24, according to the FCC. More than 217,000 cut the cord entirely, moving from a traditional landline phone to a wireless one. A smaller number — 5,400 — went from a cell phone to a landline phone.

A trade group for wireless companies expressed confidence that cellular firms will be ready to handle the additional transfers next week. But Travis Larson, spokesman for the Washington, D.C.-based Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association, questioned whether smaller traditional telephone companies are prepared.

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