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LincMad Telephone Area Codes & Splits

The chart of upcoming split/overlay information has now been moved off onto a separate page.

Utah is scheduled to have a second area code split, with Salt Lake City keeping 801 while the areas to the north (Ogden) and south (Provo) switch to 385. The split was originally scheduled for 2000-12-31, but has been postponed, postponed, and postponed again, now into 2005. It remains to be seen whether this split actually takes place.

A number of planned area code relief activities have been cancelled or indefinitely postponed, all across the U.S. and Canada. The factors leading to this sudden shift are primarily the full implementation of "thousands-block pooling" (assigning numbers to local telcos in blocks of 1,000 instead of 10,000) and Local Number Portability (allowing smaller new entrants to provide service even in rate centers where they don't own a block of numbers), plus the general downturn in the economy and especially in the telecom sector. As CLECs have merged or gone under, the demand for new numbering blocks has dropped dramatically. These events demonstrate clearly that it was never the cellphones, faxes, modems, and second lines for teenagers that drove the demand for new area codes. It was the inefficient allocation of blocks of numbers to carriers.

The Alabama Public Service Commission has cancelled the planned overlay of 659 on area code 205.

The Missouri Public Service Commission has cancelled the 314/557 (St. Louis) and 816/975 (Kansas City, MO) overlays.

The California Public Utilities Commission has determined as of 2003-10-16 that number conservation and other measures can forestall a split of area code 310 (coastal Los Angeles County) for the time being. However, the CPUC noted that what it views as a vast supply of 8 entire prefixes remain unused, plus several dozen thousands blocks. I believe that the split of 310 is inevitable, so look for the 310/424 split plan to be resurrected on very short notice, probably no later than 2006.

Area code 909, also in southern California, is also currently examining relief options, and a split appears likely in 2004. The boundary will approximate the county line between Riverside and San Bernardino Counties, but will follow existing rate center boundaries. The portions of 909 in San Bernardino and Los Angeles Counties will retain 909, while the portion in Riverside County will change to 951. The exact particulars of the boundary are still being reviewed, and no dates have been scheduled.

The Illinois Commerce Commission announced new overlay codes for the Chicago area. The 847/224 overlay has gone into effect in the northern suburbs, but the other overlays have all been suspended.

I have in these footnotes complained about the strange antics of the various state public utility commissions in implementing area code relief. On several occasions, the commissions have taken actions that I consider unconscionably contrary to obvious public interests. However, the FLORIDA PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION has truly outdone itself. Specifically, the lunatic relief plan approved for the 407 area code, including Orlando and the "Space Coast" area. Not content to decide between a geographic split and an overlay, each of which has advantages and disadvantages, the Florida PSC sought out a plan which cleverly combines the WORST features of each relief method. I refer to this plan as a "Double-Back-Somersault Reverse Concentrated Overlay with a Twist". First, on 1999-11-01, most of Brevard County, including Titusville, Cape Canaveral, and Melbourne, split geographically to the new 321 area code, with permissive dialing until 2000-10-01. Local calls within this region could be dialed as nxx-xxxx, 407-nxx-xxxx, or 321-nxx-xxxx during the permissive period. (Since mandatory dialing began 2000-10-01, local calls in the coastal area may be dialed as either nxx-xxxx or 321-nxx-xxxx.) Meanwhile, on 1999-12-01, the inland areas of 407, including Orlando and Kissimmee, introduced mandatory 10-digit local dialing and simultaneously introduced 321 as an overlay. However, there is already a 321 prefix in 407, located in Sanford, north of Orlando. The confusion between 321-xxxx and 321-nxx-xxxx will be considerable. (The 3-2-1-blastoff metaphor is appealing, but not sufficiently so to warrant introducing this level of confusion.) If that plan makes any sense at all to you, congratulate yourself on your mental flexibility, but be careful if anyone tries to sell you any beachfront property in Kansas. Of particular concern is the question of what to do when either section again needs relief. The FPSC already ordered an overlay on both sections of 407/321 and 321, although it has since suspended that overlay plan. However, the fact remains that all of the benefits of the DBSRCOT plan will evaporate if a new overlay is ordered, but the disadvantages will remain.

The 786 area code was implemented as a concentrated overlay on the Dade County (Miami metro) portion of area code 305, with the Monroe County (Florida Keys) portion retaining only area code 305 for now. A small pool of prefixes in 305 was set aside for the Keys, with projections indicating that it would last 10 to 15 years. However, even with number conservation measures such as consolidating the Keys into a single rate center, it was still necessary to expand the 786 overlay to include the entire 305 area code, less than 4 years after the concentrated overlay.

The Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota, area split on 1998-07-12, with St. Paul and the eastern portion of the current 612 area code changing to area code 651. However, the state wants to have the split boundary exactly follow town boundaries, rather than telephone exchange boundaries. The state also wants to have all subscribers keep their 7-digit numbers. Unfortunately, these two goals are directly at odds with one another. There are 39 prefixes whose territory straddles the split boundary, and those prefixes will be duplicated in both area codes, meaning that there will be cases where one house might be 612-322-xxx1, while the house next door might be 651-322-xxx2. The 39 duplicated prefixes will have an extra month of permissive dialing, but implementation will still be nightmarishly confusing. In addition, only 200 prefixes are moving entirely to 651, compared to 522 remaining in 612, and 39 prefixes duplicated. As a result, the 612 area code underwent a 3-way split on 2000-02-15, but again followed political boundaries rather than rate center boundaries, resulting in additional split prefixes.

Further, as of 1998-07-09, three days before the effective date of the 612/651 split, the Minnesota PUC was still considering a petition to keep several more exchanges in 612. There needs to be some point at which the people in charge simply say "I'm sorry, but it's too late. The plan is final." The Minnesota regulators deserve a prominent place in the Hall of Shame for this fiasco of area code relief.

I proposed as an alternative that the 39 prefixes that straddle the split boundary be divided as follows: if the last four digits form a number divisible by 3 or 5 or 31, the number would change to 651, unless the last four digits are also divisible by 173. However, on every odd-numbered third Tuesday of the month, the entire prefix will be dialed as area code 404 (Atlanta, Georgia), unless the temperature in downtown St. Paul is over 82° Fahrenheit. This plan has the advantage that it would be easier for callers outside the Minneapolis/St. Paul area to determine whether to dial 612 or 651 for the affected subscribers.


More details about area code splits and overlays can be found on the AreaCode-Info pages, maintained by John Cropper and Eric Morson. There is also an excellent listing of state/provincial regulatory agencies provided by the state of New York.

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