AT&T Punishes Me for Switching to VOIP

By , August 12, 2010

AT&T has disabled my phone for a week, as punishment for my attempt to change to a different carrier. I will never again do business with AT&T.

I’ve had the same business telephone number for 17 years.  Four years ago, I switched it from a regular business telephone line, to instead ring to my cell phone.  Last week, my wife and I decided to change phone service.

We switched to another cell-phone company (cutting the monthly bill from more than $145 to less than $60 — with more minutes), but I decided to move my business phone number to a VOIP phone service (voice-over-IP, often called “internet phone service”).

My wife was able to complete the cell-phone transfer instantly at a retail store; within minutes, her incoming calls rang to the new phone.

My request to port my business number to a VOIP service was handled very differently.

I submitted the order and authorization to the new carrier, which submitted the porting request to AT&T on Tuesday. The next day, AT&T advised my new carrier that the number was scheduled to port on August 19 (one week later).

However, AT&T immediately suspended my cell-phone service, without warning.

Now, prospective clients and employers who call my number hear a message that “This number is not accepting calls at this time” (which they’ll reasonably interpret to mean, “service was suspended for non-payment”).  I think it’s probably illegal, and certainly unethical, but there’s no practical action I can take to stop it. AT&T already knows that it’s lost my business, so it perceives no benefit from restoring my service or accelerating the “porting” process.

I already knew that about the interesting business conspiracy among the major cell-phone carriers, who have agreed to permit “instant porting” of phone numbers among their companies, but for all other phone number transfers they will only process the changes at the slowest possible rate that the law allows. But I never expected that they’d take special steps to punish customers porting to VOIP phone services, by disabling my phone number during the intentionally-delayed process.

AT&T has disabled my business phone for a week, as punishment for my attempt to switch to VOIP phone service. I will never again do business with AT&T.

One Response to “AT&T Punishes Me for Switching to VOIP”

  1. Mark Welch says:

    Update: My phone number was enabled at the new carrier yesterday, and I’ve set up voice mail. I have a softphone client on my PC, but I had problems with several free softphone apps for the iPhone, so I’m not yet up and running on WiFi.

    I expect I’ll pay for some commercial software with more functionality, but thus far I haven’t been impressed by the standard practice in this niche, which is “buy it first, then find out if you wasted your money.”

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