Number Portability, Finally?

According to this Business Week article, we are getting national cellphone number portability in November. The article predicts price cuts and a marketing frenzy in December.

The number portability progression is an interesting case study in the formation and definition of new property, and new property rights. Back in the bad old Ma Bell black phone days, phone numbers were much less relevant. Because of technological and cultural change they have become an important part of our daily lives. And the interesting struggle has been that transition from the “phone company” ownership of the number to the individual ownership of the number. As the Business Week article points out, but not in so many words, this property rights realignment has dramatic implications for how consumers and phone companies split the surplus — do prices fall or do profits rise? The evolution of number property rights toward the customer seems to suggest the former.

I think there will be more subtle and drawn out effects of this property rights evolution, but I want to chew on them a little longer and write about them once I’ve had some time to sit down and think carefully about them.