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updated 11/10/2003 8:56:57 AM ET 2003-11-10T13:56:57

Federal regulators gave the go-ahead Monday for consumers to switch their home phone numbers to their cell phones. The Federal Communications Commission said people will be able to transfer their numbers as long as their wireless coverage area overlaps the location of their conventional phone. The FCC also said it wants to allow people to transfer cell numbers to conventional phones but needs to gather more information first.

THE NEW HOME-TO-CELL number rule takes effect Nov. 24, the same day wireless customers will be able to keep their numbers when they switch cell phone companies. The rules govern customers living in the 100 most populous metropolitan areas and take effect six months later for all others.

“After today, it’s easier than ever to cut the cord,” FCC Chairman Michael Powell said. “By firmly endorsing a customer’s right to untether themselves from the wireline network — and take their telephone number with them — we act to eliminate impediments to competition between wireless and wireline services.”

Consumer advocates have long said that technological advances made it unnecessary for phone customers to have different home and cell numbers, and that they should be allowed to take their cell phone numbers with them when they change companies.

“When we reduce the switching costs of going from one carrier to another, you’re making the market more competitive,” said Chris Murray, legislative counsel for Consumers Union, which publishes Consumer Reports magazine.

“There’s both the economic cost of a new phone number — having to print new business cards, having to potentially contact everyone who might have your phone number — and massive inconvenience,” he said.”

© 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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