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Keeping One Phone Number, Maybe Forever
July 20, 2007 02:02 PM ET | LaGesse, David | Permanent Link

This business of phone numbers can be tricky, as thousands of SunRocket customers scramble to keep theirs working after the company's collapse. What's left of SunRocket, which provided cheap Internet phoning, is apparently trying to move customers to other providers. But it can be complicated, says Richard Koch, CEO of RNK Communications.

Unrelated to the fall of SunRocket, RNK announced an intriguing new service that it calls Phone Number Bank, through which customers can store their phone number for what the company promises is forever. Phone Bank will forward calls from that number to any other number (or numbers) the customer wants - say, a cellphone, an Internet phone, and/or a new land line. It's a way to get "follow-me" service that rings multiple lines, allows you to keep a phone number as you move across the country, or protects your number from shaky providers like SunRocket.

The service essentially cuts the link between your number and a local telco or other provider. As a regulated phone company, RNK can own the number and controls its fate.

The service isn't cheap, costing $30 to activate and $10 a month per line. Also, it's available only for area codes already served by RNK, which is primarily in the Northeast though expanding elsewhere. Finally, the phone bank's safety depends on RNK, which is private and doesn't release its balance sheet. Koch says that 10-year-old RNK is healthy, and that because it is a regulated firm, customers get added protection for the numbers it houses.

The service itself - having one number that people can dial to reach you wherever - is appealing. It's also timely protection for brave souls venturing into the wilds of Internet phoning.