FCC Allows VoIP Providers to Obtain (but not Port) Telephone Numbers Directly

The FCC has finally decided to allow VoIP providers to obtain telephone numbers directly, rather than having to purchase them through a third party organization.   The decision, released on 22 June 2015 in this Report and Order, paves the way for VoIP Providers to avoid a lot of administrative burden by interacting with the North American Numbering Plan (NANP) Administrator.

In his concluding remarks about the adoption of the Report and Order, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler stated that “VoIP already accounts for nearly one-third of all local phone subscribers – 48 million connections. Interconnected VoIP providers have been able to do this despite a competitive disadvantage.”

The decision follows a 6 month period during which five VoIP Providers  were allowed to start ordering their own numbers on a trial basis:

On June 17, 2013, the Wireline Competition Bureau (Bureau) adopted an Order announcing the participants in the trial. The Bureau concluded that the proposals submitted by Vonage Holdings Corp. (Vonage), SmartEdgeNet, LLC (SmartEdgeNet), WilTel Communications, LLC (WilTel or Level 3), Intelepeer, Inc. (Intelepeer), and Millicorp met the Commission’s requirements to participate in a limited direct access to numbers trial, and approved them.31
 
 
To start taking advantage of this new right, a VoIP Provider must meet the FCC’s definition of “interconnected” and must submit a “Numbering Authorization Application” using the FCC’s Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS).

While the decision is certainly beneficial for the VoIP Industry as a whole, the FCC decision falls short of solving all our problems because it deferred deciding on whether VoIP Providers would be able to port numbers, pending further study.

In particular, we direct the NANC to examine any rate center or geographic considerations implicated by porting directly to and from interconnected VoIP providers, including the implications of rate center consolidation, as well as public safety considerations, any such PSAP and 911 issues that could arise. We also direct the NANC to give the Commission a report addressing these issues, which includes options and recommendations, no later than 180 days from the release date of this Report and Order. 

So, we will have to wait a minimum of 180 days  (probably a year) to know what the FCC  will do about VoIP Providers and local number portability.