While I have been focused on the do-not-hesitate-to-call list issue this week, there has been another telephony issue making waves in Canada. The lack of cell phone number portability is widely viewed as a consumer impediment to switching providers and fostering a more competitive wireless marketplace in Canada. The U.S. successfully implemented number portability several years ago. The federal government surprised many people in the spring when it used the budget to ask the CRTC to "move expeditiously to implement wireless number portability."
The Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association unveiled its plan to operationalize the government’s request for cellphone number portability earlier this week. The CWTA’s interpretation of "expeditious"? Two years. Yes, the CWTA has offered up an implementation plan that would not bring number portability to the Canadian wireless market until 2007.
In a market that features new product rollouts seemingly weekly, the notion that it takes two years to complete this transition is positively shameful. There are a couple of options in response. First, the CRTC can simply demand number portability on a genuinely expeditious timetable. Alternatively, I propose matching the time it takes to implement this issue with the length of time the government takes to implement the pro-telecommunications company recommendations that come out of the telecommunications policy review. That review is scheduled for completion at the end of this year. Assuming there are some recommendations to relax some carrier regulations, I propose that the government work on an implementation schedule that would start in 2008. Somehow I suspect that that timeline wouldn’t sit so well with the same carriers that expect consumers to wait years for cellphone number portability.