The FCC has asked for comment on a request that it require Internet service providers (ISPs) to provide "email address portability" so that a subscriber can change ISPs while keeping the same email address. Specifically, the petition asks the FCC to require the old ISP to forward incoming email to a new address of the subscriber’s choosing.

The petitioner’s business used an AOL account opened by her then-teenage son, paid for through the petitioner’s credit card. Following a billing dispute, AOL closed the account without notice, allegedly on the ground that it had been opened by a minor, even though the petitioner’s son had since turned 18. The closure resulted in loss of the petitioner’s stored emails, contact information, saved documents, stored websites, etc., associated with her AOL screen name. Clients were unable to reach her, and she was unable to reach them to pass on a new email address.

The petitioner analogizes the request to the FCC’s imposition of telephone number portability. ISPs can be expected to oppose the proposal, as it would require them to continue providing service to non-paying former customers. ISPs may also question whether the FCC has the legal authority to provide the requested relief.

Comments are due on October 26, and reply comments on November 26.

The petition can be read here.