Cell Number Liberation

One of my hobbyhorses has been the failure of the FCC to enforce cell-phone portability, the right to keep a cell phone number even when you change carriers. Carriers have managed to push back the effective date of portability for years, and the final deadline is now Nov. 24. Fortunately, an appeals court judge rejected industry complaints on several grounds, and portability is apparently going forward.The industry is nervous because the only thing that has kept the bottom from falling out of a market in which the bottom is very very low is that fact that people don't often want to give up their cell numbers. Because cell numbers are the primary means of communication for many in business, there could be hundreds of dollars, if not more, in ancillary printing and other costs in getting a new phone number. With that inertia gone, cell carriers could be in a free fall. Many already impose one-year and two-year plan limits on people with huge penalties, often hundreds of dollars, for early cancellation. But most folks after those initial periods, if they're smart, don't re-up for similar plans. (Verizon tried to trick me into adding a 3,500 free weekend/evening minute option to my plan, but I asked if that would move me from month-to-month to another one-year commitment -- yes, they said! No thanks.) I made the big move from Verizon to Cingular several months ago after suffering from poor performance on Verizon's network, and wanting access to GSM, GPRS, and Bluetooth phones, none of which Verizon (which uses CDMA) offered at the time. They have some data options, but none of them are Mac friendly that I'm aware of. Once people can switch carriers with ease, you'll see enormous expense in poaching: you'll get offers in the mail that promise the moon and the stars, in exchange for long-term, high-penalty plans. When I switched from Verizon to Cingular, not only did I decrease my basic costs (with taxes, from about $160 per month for 1,500 minutes to $133 for 1,350 minutes), but I gained rollover minutes. So far, rollover minutes have saved me literally several hundred dollars. One month recently I used 2,000 minutes -- but still had several hundred minutes "in the bank" from previous months. At the moment, I have nearly 1,000 minutes in that bank, which means that when I have some busy months ahead, I'll still be conserving costs.