PSC Denies Request for Open Inquiry and Continues with 315 Area Code Changes

The PSC rejected PULP’s motion for further inquiry and development of a record on the need for a new area code in central New York. How and when the 315 area code will be changed is still to be decided.

In an April 25, 2008 Order, the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) formally denied PULP’s Motion for Interlocutory Relief in its proceeding to consider numbering relief options in the 315 area code region (i.e., the addition of a new area code within the current 315 area). PULP had submitted its Motion because it questioned how there could be an impending telephone number shortage in one of the least populated regions of the state. See PULP Asks PSC to Investigate Need for New Telephone Area Codes in the 315 Region.

With the April 25th Order, the Commission will now look to find the best method to add a new area code. A Staff white paper proposes one of three geographic split options, with one half keeping 315, or having the new code “overlay” the current 315 code. Comments on the white paper are now due May 23 under a new scheduling order. The PSC also scheduled “public statement” hearings for May 1 – 14 throughout the area to gauge the preferences of residents.

When the Commission first proposed the need for area code “relief” in 315, PULP noticed that 78 rate centers which historically had only one exchange code (that is, communities assigned just one 10,000 telephone number central office code) had obtained multiple central office codes in recent years. What would a town of, say, 1,000 people do with 40,000 new telephone numbers, PULP wondered. And, if unneeded numbers and exchange codes could be returned, no area code relief would be necessary at this time.

The answer to this question comes down to timing. Today, all local telephone companies which request telephone numbers are required to request them in blocks of 1,000. Instead of receiving all 10,000 telephone numbers between 315-555-0000 and 315-555-9999, for example, one company receives the 555-1000 numbers and the next company receives the 555-2000 numbers. By allocating telephone numbers 1,000 at a time as opposed to 10,000 at a time, numbering conservation can truly occur and the burden and inconvenience of requiring new area codes can be averted or delayed.

When were telephone companies required to get numbers in thousands blocks? While thousands block pooling (as it is known) was kicked off in New YorkState in 2001, rural areas were not included by the Commission until fall 2007. However, some carriers, like Verizon, voluntarily pooled the numbers in their rural communities much earlier than that.

The bottom line, according to the Commission, is that assigning multiple sets of 10,000 blocks of telephone numbers in 315’s rural areas was permissible until last fall. As a result, the Commission found nothing unusual in how the telephone numbers were allocated.

This conclusion does not explain another important aspect of allocating telephone numbers — that they must be used in the rate center or community in which they are designated. In several of these formerly single exchange rate centers, the competitive telephone companies which have received their own 10,000 blocks of numbers to serve these areas may provide the numbers to cable companies offering voice service who are prohibited from receiving numbers on their own. PULP finds it hard to believe that all of those telephone numbers (say, 30,000) are truly being used by customers in the designated rate centers (with, say, a population of 1,500). And if they are not, what a great waste of a limited resource, one that leads to over one million people in 18 mostly rural counties being subjected to a yet-to-be-determined area code change.

Lou Manuta

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