Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Email Portability

I was there at the revolution. Actually at several revolutions - the invention of the PC, of the world wide web, of the cell phone - but the one I'm referring to here is the invention of telephone number portability. We used to be confined by our physical address or by our cell phone provider to a certain set of phone numbers - a certain area code, and a certain first three digits of our phone number. But that's no longer the case. Change location, change carrier, move from landline to cellular, and your phone number can remain the same. By law. It's part of the Telecom Act of 19??. But it's not only law, it's a law that was made feasible by new technology that can look each number up in a database and route it accordingly.

The only exception is if you leave the U.S. In Europe and Asia each cellular provider has their own "area code", and when you call a cell phone, you know you're calling a cell phone, and you know the carrier. Why? Well, a couple of reasons that I can surmise. One is of course the lack of the Telecom Act, but the second is that in Europe and Asia it costs more to call a cell phone then it costs to call a landline. So if I call my mother in Israel on her cell phone it costs me nine cents a minute, versus about two cents a minute on her landline. And it's important to let the caller know that their phone call will cost more, and the only way to do that is to have a separate set of area codes for cell phone numbers. Which still doesn't explain why each cell phone provider has a different area code... Of course the bottom line of all this is that in the U.S. you can choose your phone carrier based on cost and performance, without worrying about having to change your phone number. They don't have that lock on you.

Which brings me to my real frustration, which is the lack of e-mail portability. I've kept it as an article of faith that I don't want to change my e-mail address, because I want to make sure I get all the mail intended for me (junk mail excluded). Well, I'm locked to Earthlink. Now, with my new phone, I'd like to get e-mail on my phone. Well, that doesn't work with Earthlink. They don't provide that service. So my options are all about workarounds. Get a Gmail account, have my e-mail forwarded to Gmail, send my Gmail to my Blackjack, synchronize the two (Gmail and Earthlink) manually... a PAIN... Unfortunately I don't see e-mail portability on the horizon. But if you see differently, please let me know.


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