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NUMBERING PLAN COMMENTS CALL FOR AN END TO DISCRIMINATION

WASHINGTON-The wireless telecommunications industry sent a clear message to the Federal Communications Commission that it expects to be treated as a local exchange carrier when it comes to distributing additional numbers and implementing new area codes.

Comments submitted last week regarding how certain local-competition provisions of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 are executed saw most wireless operators focusing on how the North American Numbering Plan should be administered. Most favored continued FCC oversight of state numbering decisions to make sure that local jurisdictions adhere to the national policy established by the commission. They also are adamant that any numbering discrimination between carriers be stopped.

According to Vanguard Cellular Systems Inc., “Discrimination against wireless carriers has been one of the enduring numbering issues of the last 15 years. These problems persist, and proposals to limit the ability of wireless carriers to obtain central office codes*…*surface again and again, especially when landline carriers blame wireless carriers for the exhaustion of area codes. The solution to these problems is for the commission to require all central office code assignments to be made on terms and conditions that do not distinguish among the types of carriers receiving the codes.”

And because states have been alleged to favor incumbent local exchange carriers over new entrants, Paging Network Inc. asked the FCC to divest a state of its numbering authority either permanently or for a five-year period if it strays from the national objectives.

New York City personal communications services licensee Omnipoint Communications Inc. has had its share of problems obtaining numbers for its network; its application for a general-purpose NPA code has been denied, the carrier wrote, by every LEC involved. Even so, “Not one LEC representative challenged Omnipoint’s position that it met the assignment criteria*…*or presented evidence that Omnipoint did not meet the criteria,” Omnipoint added.

Omnipoint blamed this behavior, in part, on the commission’s delay of full rollout of the North American Numbering Plan, complete with a new administrator with no demonstrable ties to any telecommunications carrier. “Not only has a meeting not been conducted and a new NANP administrator not been selected, but the commission has yet to announce members of the [NANP] council,” the carrier wrote.

As long as Bell Communications Research Inc., the current administrator, continues to have jurisdiction over numbering, “the status quo will remain and Bellcore will continue to administer numbering resources to LEC competitors, an untenable situation in light of increasingly competitive markets,” Omnipoint concluded.

The Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association agreed with the PCS licensee, adding that the FCC should have named a numbering council last October, and that the proposed continuance of state and Bellcore jurisdiction over numbering issues promotes at least “the appearance of LEC dominance and discrimination in the assignment and administration of scarce numbering resources.”

To help reduce problems related to the NXX code shortage, PageNet suggested that neutral overlays be instituted instead of area-code splits because they can be implemented relatively easily. PageNet’s guidelines included the following points: that overlays include all services and a 10-digit dialing plan; that wireless subscribers who voluntarily change their numbers when an area-code split is necessary have the right to maintain the same number but with the different code; and that all NXX codes be available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Grappling with a separate but related local-service problem is Celpage Inc., which refers to itself as the largest paging company in Puerto Rico. Celpage currently relies on Puerto Rico Telephone Co. for interconnection and number-administration purposes, but the LEC reportedly intends to have itself reclassified as a rural telco, which, according to Celpage, would exempt it from many of the FCC’s nondiscriminatory practices.

If the LEC was allowed to become a rural carrier, it would be exempt from “the rates, rights and charges and other terms and conditions of services” to which it currently must adhere under Commonwealth rules.

“In the past, Celpage has also suffered anti-competitive harm caused by PRTC’s discriminatory provision of the NXX codes necessary to expand its paging service to customers,” Celpage wrote. “The delay in processing Celpage’s requests for service has caused severe delays in the deployment of service to the consumers. Celpage was unable to expand its services during this time period, although PRTC was administering the NXX requests of its affiliated cellular company with these codes that are necessary for the provision of interconnected service to the public.”

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