[Ed. Note: This is in response to a post on Verizon’s Policy Blog, by Tom Tauke.]
Tom, I have great respect for you but your blog this morning was a little over the top.
“Thwart consumer choice?” C’mon, Tom. This is really about Verizon trying to thwart competition . . . again.
Here is what is really going on. For the first time in history, Verizon’s entrenched incumbent position in the phone marketplace is being challenged successfully by cable competitors providing digital phone service, a relatively new marketplace development that gives consumers more choice, better value, and — according to J.D. Power and Associates — provides consumers greater satisfaction in every region of the United States. Not to put too fine a point on it: Verizon is losing customers.
Naturally, you’ll do everything you can to retain them. I get that. But, the law is very clear: Verizon can market to its heart’s content 362 days of the year to its customers. However, when customers make a decision to leave you, you are obligated to honor their decision to request that their phone number be transferred to their new provider, and respect their privacy by porting their current number within 4 days without harassing them with marketing retention calls. Congress, on a bipartisan basis, and the FCC have previously recognized that integrity in the number porting process is essential for true competition to flourish.
You are right that this is about consumer choice . . . but when consumers have made a choice, they deserve to have their choice implemented. That’s why there are rules preventing you from undermining that choice by invading their privacy.
You also call this an “intriguing” development. You refer of course to a decision that has not yet been announced (although there have been press reports). I agree that it is “intriguing.” First, this is a rare “restricted” proceeding. That means no one is supposed to speak to anyone at the FCC about this proceeding unless all parties to the complaint are present. It’s “intriguing” that someone in the FCC apparently leaked a decision that apparently goes against Verizon. And it is “intriguing” that the leak was apparently choreographed in a way that gives Verizon a shot at debating this in the press and the blogs.
One solution we should all agree on is to reduce the “porting interval” – the period of time it takes to shift a phone number from the losing provider to the winning provider, regardless of whether it is a shift from a phone provider to a cable provider or the other way around. That’s what consumers really want and deserve. And, the temptation for mischief is reduced. I invite you to work with us to ensure the FCC actually makes a decision soon to shorten the ridiculously long 4 days that consumers are forced to tolerate for simply making a choice in favor of the competition.
One other thing: you make the usual “apples to oranges” argument that because cable is engaged in win-back marketing when a cable video customer decides to switch to FIOS service, Verizon should be able to market during the porting interval for phone service. Oh, and you also throw in the same old tired refrain of “rising cable prices.” Are you really unaware that Verizon’s video service is priced about the same as cable providers? Did you miss the press release where Verizon announced perhaps the greatest video price hikes in the country last year? And, of course, what you also leave out is that a FIOS customer won’t cancel service until Verizon has already wired up the house and is ready to turn on (or has turned on) the service. So, it’s a done deal at that point. Of course the cable company may try to win back the customer. But it’s not doing it with inside information.
Intriguing? You bet.