Thursday, September 16, 2004 - The Progress & Freedom Foundation Blog

Adventures in Hot Cuts

For those calling PFF in the last 24 hours and receiving a "this number is out of service" message or just non-stop ringing, we apologize as the porting process appears to have been handled by Moe, Larry and Curly, with an assist from Shemp, who worked for our old carrier. That'll teach us to go with the low cost option... Oh, and the carrier "forgot" to port our direct dial numbers, so everyone calling today gets the added pleasure of talking to our delightfult receptionist, Marcia.

I trust that ultimately this will get worked out to our satisfaction. If not, the beauty of a competitive market will allow us choice to find a better carrier. That said, CLEC-to-CLEC porting (as in this case) is governed, at best, by the interconnection agreements between those carriers, if there is one. More often, the porting needs to involve the incumbent, whose recompense for this process is below their costs (TELRIC non-recurring costs can get preposterously low--assume non-union robots in an automated porting process and pay the incumbent that!). For the end-user, as PFF now knows rather pointedly, this is a crucial but non-transparent process. You don't even know who to scream at--it might be your new carrier's fault, your old carrier's fault, or some third-party's.

My strong preference here still is to have the regulatory process retreat from this area and allow contract to work it out. The regulatory process will not for historical reasons countenance remedies like expectation damages for harmed consumers. A market might offer this term, particularly to businesses willing to pay for it. Likewise, the coordination problems between carriers are real and non-trivial, but the compensation each pays the other is regulated. Finally, the incentives between the carriers are askew. The losing carrier has little incentive to execute the port properly -- they are losing a customer, after all. I would think contract mechanisms might be better at solving this temporal externality problem than regulation.

This is the tortured thinking that just changing your phone company inspires. Pity me.

posted by Ray Gifford @ 9:34 AM | General