If you are a small business owner, your telephone number may well be part of your community identity, especially if you have already invested in advertising and business cards.
But if you want to change telephone carriers, do you need to lose your phone number?
As long as your business remains in the same geographic area, the Federal Communications Commission  guarantees your right to keep your telephone number even if you switch carriers. The process is known as porting .
How to Switch Phone Carriers and Keep Your Number
Here are things you should know and steps you should take if you want to change telephone carriers without losing your phone number:
1. “Find the carrier that meets your needs,” says David Weitzner, a member of the channel management team at Nextiva , a VoIP telephone services provider. Select a reputable phone service provider who can provide your business with the features and options you need within your budget.
2. Check the contract with your current carrier to make sure you aren’t obligated to remain with them for more service time. If you are, you could be obligated to pay early termination fees.
3. Similarly, if you currently are “bundling” services with telephone, such as internet and cable television, you may want to check how a switch may affect your service agreement or fees, Weitzner says.
4. A common mistake many customers make is to contact their current provider and terminate service before acquiring new service, Weitzner says. Do not do this.
5. Instead, contact the service provider to which you intend to switch and provide them with the telephone numbers you wish to switch and any other information that is required, according to the FCC.
6. You must send a Letter of Authorization (LOA) to your current telephone carrier to inform them of your decision to have the numbers ported to a new carrier. Some providers will send customers the necessary documentation to help you write the letter, Nextiva’s Weitzner says.
7. Companies are permitted, under FCC rules, to charge you for porting your number. However, you can negotiate with the provider to waive the fees. Most large carriers do not charge. Also, companies may not refuse to port your number even if you have not paid for the service, according to the FCC.
8. Once you request service from a new company, your old company can’t refuse to port your number, even if you owe money for an outstanding balance or termination fee. However, you are still obligated to pay any unpaid balances or fees.
9. The FCC recommends that you ask your new provider how 911 services might be affected during the transition. Generally, 911 calls should go through, but location and callback services may not be available.
10. Similarly, you should ask your new provider about long distance services, which will not move with you in the switch.
11. During the porting process, there may be a period of time when you have two different telephones with the same number.
12. FCC rules require simple ports, which generally do not involve more than one line or more complex adjustments to telephone switching equipment, to be processed in one business day. More complex adjustments, such as a wireline to wireless port, could take as long as 10 days.
Smartphone  Photo via Shutterstock