The FCC, or Federal Communications Commission, is looking to introduce a new plan to make wireless phone numbers directly available to Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP providers. This will prevent the VoIP providers having to go through traditional telephony companies to obtain the numbers. The FCC commented on utilizing traditional telephony companies as middlemen, stating “this can raise costs and slow introduction of innovative services, such as high-definition voice”.
Additionally, the FCC is looking to ease access for VoIP providers for other services that require numbers, such as IP access to emergency services, home security systems, text messaging services, programmable appliances and telematics like hands-free cellular modems in automobiles.
The FCC has launched a limited, six-month trial of direct access to these numbers for a select number of VoIP providers. The VoIP providers with pending direct-access waiver petitions will be able to test direct access for five percent or less of the numbers they currently acquire through intermediaries, and a very limited amount of new numbers. The VoIP providers will be required to report monthly to the FCC on the progress of the trial, and could potentially be required to return the numbers if any problems arise. This will allow the FCC to test a number of technical issues related to the proposals and determine whether a more streamlined approach is appropriate in regards to obtaining these numbers.
Furthermore, the FCC opened a Notice of Inquiry asking about the long-term relationship of numbers and their ties to geographic boundaries. Due to number portability, these ties between area codes and geographic regions have been weakened. This is especially prominent with mobile subscribers who move away from the area where they obtained their mobile number, but continue to use it. The FCC is debating whether changes in Commission policies are appropriate.