In short, yes, VoIP providers are absolutely able to charge for number porting - however, this doesn't mean that they always do. In fact, this process is the most seamless when making the move from POTS providers to VoIP, but full of difficulties and even stop signs when transitioning from VoIP to VoIP. No matter your current phone service provider, the Federal Communications Commission requires that all wireline service providers allow customers to port their number to a new service provider as long as the customer remains in the same geographic area. Now that we've covered the basics, let's delve a bit deeper into the reasoning behind porting charges:
Legal Rights:According to FCC regulations, you are the sole owner of your number, and can decide to port it anywhere you'd like from current (and soon to be past) POTS service. On the other hand, numbers appointed when you start service with a VoIP provider are NOT in fact, yours, so that number inevitably won't be portable. The reason for this includes the fact VoIP providers must initially lease the number from a telecoms provider in order to make it functional. As the owner and controller of the switches used to route calls from the Internet to analog phone lines, numbers are consequently registered to the VoIP provider's name, and not the consumer. For the sake of this article however, we are speaking in terms of porting numbers over from POTS to VoIP, a cut an dry, but not necessarily free process.
In agreement with said number porting rules above, fees and charges may be applied from companies to the consumer in order to recover the costs that go into providing number portability. With ideal situations, new carriers will completely foot the bill as part of bulking up the allure in choosing their service and/or as a courtesy to the new customer (not to mention the fact a year of business is worth more than a one-time fee in the long run).
It's worth noting that companies may not "refuse to port a number because a consumer has not paid for porting" - a protection applied by the FCC to ensure the service is performed successfully before there is any exchange of money. As a result of varying costs of operating due to economic factors (resources, geography, etc.) there is currently no universal charge for Local Number Portability (LNP). Additionally, companies may legally charge up to but not exceed their own porting costs, as per the Telecommunications Act of 1996 - still going strong after nearly two decades.
Again, number porting charges aren't always written in stone or even mandatory for that matter. Consumers are encouraged to ask their new provider whether there are any number portability fees, and if these fees are able to be waived. The key to making this process a smooth and easy one involves verifying the exact details with your provider beforehand. Service providers who fail to adhere to the guidelines in the two documents linked above, may be reported by filling out an online complaint form with the FCC, or by calling the FCC's Consumer Center at 1-888-CALL-FCC.