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AT&T Doesn’t Want More Customers

I was going to depart from my usual snarky Tech Tuesday blog and talk about something that I like (whenever I figure out something that I actually like), but after today’s experience with AT&T, I decided to put off the non-snark until next week…

Recently, Kim got a new job that has required her to do a bit more commuting than normal and she’s really started to want a smartphone so that she can read the news, surf the web, and do some emailing. As she’s currently on a plan with her family, we’ve been talking about moving her on to my AT&T Wireless plan.

So we went into an AT&T Wireless store today to get some information on how much it would cost. It didn’t take very long for the agent to tell me that since my phone number is in the Washington DC Metro, and Kim’s phone number is in the New York City Metro, she’d have to change her number. This was kind of a deal breaker, and we didn’t stay much longer after that.

Kim and I talked about it on the way home and decided that there must be some way around this silly policy. I mean it’s one thing to have an account based in an area, but is AT&T really going to refuse a new customer just because the area code is different? Isn’t the whole point of phone number portability so that you don’t have to get a new phone number when you switch companies?

Apparently, AT&T doesn’t want a new customer and you can’t always port your number to a new company. I called customer service to ask about it and a very nice representative confirmed that normally on a Family Share plan, both numbers have to be in the same market. That doesn’t mean that all the lines have to have the same area code, they just group areas together for billing purposes. So Baltimore (and maybe as far north as Philly) are in the Washington DC Metro market.

But this seems incredibly dumb to me. I have a separate account number, and that’s what they generate the bill for, so who cares where the phone number is based. No one gets a new cell phone number when they move anymore. With cell phones, no one cares about long distance charges anymore because a local minute is the same as a long distance minute. If you check out the FCC website about phone number portability, it says:

Under the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC’s) “local number portability” (LNP) rules, so long as you remain in the same geographic area, you can switch telephone service providers, including interconnected Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) providers, and keep your existing phone number. If you are moving from one geographic area to another, however, you may not be able to take your number with you.

Okay, okay, so I get that it says if you “remain in the same geographic area” you can keep your number, and for a land line, that makes sense to me.  But the whole point of a cell phone is that it’s not tied to a location.  You don’t have to get a new email address every time you switch computers, so why should you need a new cell phone number if you move.  Is this law just outdated?  Is this some policy that is enforced so that AT&T can play some accounting trickery with their income numbers?  I have no idea and if you do, I’d love to hear from you.  Because I have no idea what technical reason is preventing putting our two phone numbers on the same bill. (In fact they even said if this was a business account, it’d be no problem!) Clearly, AT&T has no problem finding your cellphone in their network.  They had no problem routing calls to my phone when it (and I) were in ENGLAND! So come on AT&T, get your billing department up to speed with the times here.

The nice representative did do some checking on her end and talked to the number porting department who told her that I might be able to call the relocation department and have my account relocated to the NYC market. Despite the fact that she said I wouldn’t need to change my phone number to do this, the relocation department said although I could relocate my account to NYC, I would need to get a new phone number.

So that’s out.  Some silly policy just caused AT&T to miss out on some extra income…..

3 thoughts on “AT&T Doesn’t Want More Customers”

  • So, it turns out it IS POSSIBLE to combine multiple “markets” on the same bill. I won’t go into the details, but if you follow the instructions at this forum, you can turn your account into an NBI account which puts you in a “National” market.

  • As of October 29th, 2013, you can now combine wireless numbers from different AT&T regions onto a single personal or family plan. I just did it on my personal Mobile Share plan, and there’s no longer any extra hoops to jump through.

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