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Just Port Me Now

After a recent merry-go-round experience with AT&T, I wonder why some business processes just don't improve at the same pace as technology. Changing from one service provider to another always seems to take too long.

You might blame the government, but that won't ease the pain that often comes when trying to port a phone number.

My wife and I decided to cancel our cellular service with AT&T because it wouldn't tailor our plan or offer a senior discount. T-Mobile, on the other hand, offered a senior rate (proof required) of $60 monthly, including taxes, fees, and not so obvious charges that make people crazy, for two lines with unlimited voice, data, and text. That's a 58% reduction from our $145 monthly cost just for cell service.

My number ported easily, but not my wife's. Six days and numerous telephone calls later, with transfers between call center staffers who couldn't address the problem and supervisors who were going to call me back, we finally got the proverbial kick in the teeth. The call center told us to visit an AT&T store, which we did -- only to be told, "You can't port that number for two weeks. It's policy."

Donuts are a comfort food, so after having one, we made our way to the T-Mobile store. There we camped out for two hours, where we had a long call with an AT&T representative, Srasheda (who did actually care about our situation). Finally my wife's number was unlocked from the AT&T network and then ported.

This isn't meant to be a bash on AT&T; many things make it a good carrier, as I've previously written. But AT&T simply doesn't have the right cellular solution for us, while T-Mobile does. Also importantly, T-Mobile made us comfortable and gave us a positive in-store experience.

Porting a phone number to another service is usually a miserable experience, as it was with AT&T. Why can't this process be improved?

Carriers should be able to improve the porting process regardless of how complex it might be. In fact, porting should be automated and, given adequate accountability, I do think government could be praised for by making this so. Too many hands and ears are involved in porting, and that equates to more potential latency and issues subject to numerous interpretations.

Our industry talks up process improvement and a flurry of other terms that get repeated daily and used when making pitches. The porting process is where we need to improve, and that's within our scope.

To all those concerned: Just port the numbers, please.

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