Ditch Your Carrier and Take Your Phone Number With You

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Just because I’m enamored of my banana doesn’t mean others will be too, and vice versa. Same goes for phone numbers. We fall in love with what’s ours.

People value their cell phone numbers, and the threat of losing a phone number in switching from one carrier to another deters many from switching at all. Even if we despise our current carrier, we’ll stay put, lest we lose our precious phone number.

I empathize with this fear. I’ve had my cell phone number for over fifteen years, and I would be devastated to lose it. It would be terribly inconvenient to have to broadcast my new number to all of my friends and family. Plus, I think I love my cell phone number. It’s an emotional attachment.

It’s irrational. I know. It’s an inconsequential arrangement of seven single digits that was doled out to me, at random, more than a decade and a half ago. Why do I fear losing my cell phone number?

Duke University professor Dan Ariely, prolific human behavior experimenter and author of Predictably Irrational, gives two reasons which he calls quirks.

“The first quirk . . . is that we fall in love with what we already have.” I love my phone number not because it’s perfectly tailored for me–my cell phone number soul-mate, if you will–but because of “nature’s ability to make us instantly attached to what we have.”

Here’s an analogy. For many, a cell phone number is like a piece of real estate. Sure, you could always replace it, but the new one won’t have the same idiosyncrasies that made it uniquely yours. Your child’s hand won’t be imprinted in the sidewalk cement of the new home. When you move, you can’t take with you the neighbors you love (although there are probably some neighbors you would be happy to lose). A new home might be, by the stats, as good or better than your current home, but the basis on which you value your current home extends far beyond objectivity of statistics. Taking all subjective and objective traits of your home into account, probably no one values your home as much as you. Same with phone numbers.

“The second quirk is that we focus on what we may lose, rather than what we may gain.” This quirk, actually, might be perfectly rational in the context of losing my long-time cell phone number and starting from scratch with another. Recall the inconvenience of having to get in touch with all of my contacts to tell them my new cell phone number. If it is true that one random phone number is, at the point of issuance, as good as any other, then there’s no sense in which I might gain by getting a new number; rather, I only lose the convenience of keeping my old number.

And losing a phone number is not just an inconvenience. In many cases, it could cost you money.

Take MLK Boulevard, for example. In 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill that creating Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a federal holiday to honor the fallen leader. On the local level, leaders honored King by renaming streets to MLK Boulevard. “More than seven hundred thirty US cities have streets named after King.” It’s a venerable cause, for sure, but it’s not without its costs.

One of the classic debates is whether honoring King in this way is worth the costs associated with changing a street name. Think about it. MLK Boulevards are seldom short, uninhabited streets. Businesses and residents have much time and money invested in their street name. When this name changes, all of the old stationary is made obsolete. All of their friends and family must be notified. This was Tulsa business owner Bradley Garcia’s gripe.

Abstract and title work, that’s $1,000 at least. This name change is going to cost me $4 or $5 thousand dollars and I’m just a little guy trying to make ends meet down here. I don’t know how I’m going to do it. . . I don’t have $5,000 to throw out just for a name change when I’m not moving or going anywhere.

These are just the individual costs. The local citizens collectively bear costs too. In Tulsa, for example, changing a street name to MLK Boulevard cost tax payers $97,000 just for new street signs. And who knows how to quantify the cost of lost sales for local businesses as would-be shoppers wander lost on recently renamed streets, or the cost to those lost wanderers of their own wasted time?

It’s not that honoring King is not worthwhile; it’s that doing it in this way carries change-costs, in both time and money. Changing cell phone numbers is the same. Change carries costs.

So, we’ve now established why people prefer to keep their cell phone numbers. But the remaining question is can they?

Yes. While the law does not recognize you as the owner of your cell phone number, it does entitle you to keep it, provided you follow these FCC guidelines. I’ll summarize them for you.

  1. If you wish to take your cell phone number with you to a new carrier, you must ask your new to carrier to pull your phone number from your old carrier. This is called a “port request.”
  2. DO NOT terminate your old carrier account before the “port request” has been processed.
  3. In order to send your port request to your old carrier, your new carrier will need your old carrier account information. This typically includes your name, your account number, your address, your phone number, and your account access pin number.
  4. The port will typically be complete in about one business day, but sometimes it can take up to seven days, depending on the complexity of your request.
  5. Once your old carrier processes your port request, your contracts with your old carrier associated with the lines your ported away will be effectively terminated.

CellBreaker was founded by a team of level-headed consumers. Thus we understand the basic aversion people have to change and its associated costs. Our Breaker service ensures that you’re able to ditch your carrier and keep your cell phone number. Simple. If your goal is to switch carriers, why not give it a shot?

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