LSU AgCenter Family Economist Says New Phone Regs Mostly Good For Consumers

Jeanette A. Tucker  |  10/10/2006 12:29:25 AM

News Release Distributed 11/19/2003

New federal regulations are about to make it possible for most Americans to switch wireless and wired phone carriers without losing the phone numbers their friends and relatives know by heart.

That’s predicted to be a good thing for consumers, according to LSU AgCenter family economics professor Dr. Jeanette Tucker.

"The new regulations are designed to spur competition in the telecommunications industry," Tucker says, explaining federal communications officials are operating on the idea that allowing people to leave one phone company for another without giving up their current phone number will eliminate barriers to competition among wireless and wired phone carriers.

The new regulations take hold Nov. 24 and will allow changes from wired to wireless service or between wireless carriers.

Beginning Nov. 24, people in the 100 largest U.S. markets will be able to disconnect a home or business land line and transfer that number to a cell phone – as long as the wired and wireless companies have overlapping coverage. Then in May 2004, the new Federal Communications Commission regulations will allow phone customers in the remaining markets to make such a switch.

In addition, the new FCC regulations allow cell phone users to switch wireless providers and take their phone numbers with them.

"This option is expected to begin a frenzied battle for market share as providers compete for customers’ loyalty and dollars," Tucker says.

Market surveys predict that as many as 60 million wireless subscribers will switch carriers while retaining their existing cell phone numbers.

Tucker recalls that 20 years ago most Americans had only one choice for phone service – AT&T. After "Ma Bell" was broken up in 1984, its local network was split among seven "Baby Bells."

Then, in 1996, Congress passed the Telecommunications Act to open the Bell’s networks to competition.

"The greatest competition has come from wireless carriers," Tucker says. "Consequently, the number of cell phone users has risen almost 10 percent since 2001, while the number of land lines has fallen more than 2 percent.

Tucker points out, however, there are a host of reasons for people to stay with wired phone service – rather than abandoning it completely for wireless.

"Many people can’t get clear cell phone reception inside their homes, and a hurricane or other natural disaster that cuts off power could deprive victims of their only phone once the battery runs out of power," she says. "And, unlike land-line phones, cell phones don’t automatically give out their locations to 911 dispatchers."

For information on related family and consumer topics, contact an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office. Or visit the LSU AgCenter’s Web site at www.lsuagcenter.com.

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Source: Jeanette Tucker at (225) 578-1425 or jtucker@agcenter.lsu.edu

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