FCC Nudges Nationwide Number Portability Forward by Amending LNP Query Rules

Earlier this month, the FCC adopted a Report and Order as a step toward nationwide number portability (NNP) to allow consumers to switch their telephone numbers to any carrier, anywhere in the country. The amended rules relax requirements on which service provider is responsible for querying ported telephone numbers in the Number Portability Administration Center (NPAC) database. Until now, the carrier immediately preceding the terminating carrier (the N-1 carrier) was required to ensure that ported telephone numbers were queried in the NPAC. The FCC relaxed the N-1 requirements to allow the originating service provider or any other carrier in the call path to take responsibility for the query in anticipation of changes to the number porting rules to lift rate center boundary limitations and allow NNP.

The original N-1 rule was put in place to ensure the query costs were split between originating and interexchange carriers and so that calls would not be left unqueried. Today, few consumers have an interexchange carrier that is different from their local provider, which makes N-1 unnecessary in some cases; however, it is still necessary when the providers differ and wireless and iVoiP calls are in the mix. Those calls may be destined to terminate outside the originating carrier’s network and may not fall under the originating service provider’s responsibility in the current N-1 structure.

The change was made because the FCC agreed with commenters that stated requiring the N-1 carrier to perform the query in the NNP environment could result in frequent inefficient and unnecessary queries and routing. For example, a call could route from the originating carrier to an interexchange carrier for the query and back to the originating carrier for termination. Such instances would be avoided if the originating carrier performed the query. However, to continue to ease the potential burden of the originating carrier bearing all query costs, the rule will continue to require the industry to follow the N-1 process if the originating carrier declines to query the number. Whether or not the originating service provider decides to query the call will depend on the query costs and the provider’s ability to route and terminate calls under the “to be determined” NNP protocol selected for the industry.

The N-1 amendment in this Report and Order will be effective 30 days after the Order is posted in the Federal Register.

NNP Next Steps

In addition to the N-1 change, the FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau earlier this month directed the North American Numbering Council (NANC) to investigate the costs, benefits, and technical requirements of two potential NNP methods: Non-Geographic LRN (NGLRN) and Nationwide LRN (NLRN). The NANC was also charged with recommending the next steps the Commission and industry should take to achieve full NNP. An interim report is due to the Bureau at the December NANC meeting and the final report is due at the NANC’s first meeting of 2019, which is normally held in March.

The Order and the NANC directive are significant for ALL service providers as the ability for consumers to port their telephone number anywhere in the country is arriving sooner that we thought.

If you have questions or would like additional details about NNP, contact Bridget Alexander White in JSI’s Maryland office at 301-459-7590.