The catch: all people in both area codes would need to dial at least 11 digits (1-315-NXX-1234 or 1-NEW-NXX-1234), instead of just 7 digits (NXX-1234), to make a local call.
The ALJ's Recommended Decision rejected the other option posed by the PSC Staff -- a geographic split -- which would have divided the 315 territory in two parts. Customers in one part would keep the 315 area code, while customers in the other part would have a new area code and thus would be required to change the area code portion of their telephone numbers. Within each area, people would continue to have seven-digit dialing for local calls.
The ALJ recommended that “[t]he Commission should require Frontier, Verizon, and other incumbent and competing local exchange carriers to begin preparing plans for introducing the new area code on a timely basis.”
The need for a new area code, however, is not nearly as dire as the Judge’s words suggest.
The facts developed in the record by PULP confirm that there is no reason to require the telephone companies providing service in the 315 area code to take immediate steps to implement a new area code now or in the foreseeable future. In the relatively short period of time which has elapsed since this proceeding commenced (December 20, 2007), the North American Numbering Plan Administrator (“NANPA”) has pushed back the exhaust date for the 315 area code three times -- from the third quarter of 2010, to the first quarter of 2011, and to the first quarter of 2012.
In addition, according to the NANPA data, only four exchange codes (the 3-digit number after the area code) were requested in the 315 area code for the first 10 months of 2008, and 97 exchange codes still remain. In contrast, in 2006 and 2007, exchange codes were being utilized (unnecessarily) at a much higher rate. At the current pace, which slowed when the PSC stopped giving numbers out 10,000 at a time in rural areas, it may be more than 20 years before the steps contemplated by the ALJ need to be taken. For further background of the proceeding and the change in the way numbers are used see
- 315 Area Code Number Exhaust Pushed Back Another Year: No Need to Add New Area Code Now;
- PSC Halts 315 Area Code Changes For Now, But Denies PULP Petition for More Aggressive Telephone Number Conservation and Reclamation;
- PULP Provides Further Proof That Area Code Changes Are Not Needed Now in the 315 Area;
- Bill Would Require PSC to More Closely Scrutinize Telephone Area Code Changes;
- PULP Asks PSC to Reconsider Refusal to Investigate Alternative to New Area Code in 315;
- PSC Denies Request for Open Inquiry and Continues with 315 Area Code Changes;
- PSC Puts 315 Area Code Changes on Hold Pending Investigation;
- PULP Asks PSC to Investigate Need for New Telephone Area Codes in the 315 Region;
- PSC Considering "Area Code Relief" For 315 -- Where Did All The Numbers Go?
If code demand stays low, we will not have to begin implementation of a new area code until the 315 code is closer to depletion.The Recommended Decision, however, states that "the Commission should require Frontier, Verizon, and other incumbent and competing local exchange carriers to begin preparing plans for introducing the new area code on a timely basis." This suggests immediate action and expenses when they may not really be needed.
On December 16th, all parties will have the opportunity to file comments in opposition to the ALJ’s Recommended Decision to the Commission. Then, active parties will have until December 31, 2008 to file reply comments. The Commission is expected to take a final decision in the spring of 2009.
In previous decisions regarding area code relief, the Commission has recognized the enormous burden that area code change has on residential customers and businesses, and that it should not be done unless absolutely necessary. The Commission’s previous policies under which telephone numbers were assigned were wasteful, and promoted the premature exhaustion of exchange codes in the 315 area code. After PULP’s criticism of these policies and involvement in this proceeding, legislative action to require evidentiary proceedings on the need for a new area code, and a change in the way new numbers are issued, the rate of requests for exchange codes in the 315 area slowed to a crawl. Now that this has occurred, there is no need for hasty action, especially action that may be needless and which will adversely impact the phone companies, residential customers and businesses.