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Monday, Dec 4, 2023

New Area Code Dismays Consumers

Utilities: Plans for Yet Another Phone Code Change May Be Dropped

As the owner of Minuteman Press in Sorrento Valley, Bruce Griffith has noticed that just about every one of his customers has been needing new business cards and stationery ever since the telephone area codes changed.

The increase in business has been a boon for Griffith, but at the same time, it’s been an inconvenience for him personally, as his own store was affected by the area code split.

“They changed the area code, but they did not change the area code on the local cellular phones,” he said. “So therefore, I had to go over and have a whole new phone number, so I could get a new area code. Because to call myself, I had to use an area code. So, on the cellular phones, it was really a pain.”

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Griffith is not alone. The office of San Diego Mayor Susan Golding reported that 3,200 people have flooded the city’s Web site with complaints ever since the northern part of the 619 area code was split to form the 858 area code.

The new area code began June 12 of last year, when people were able to dial either 619 or 858 to place a phone call to the northern portion of San Diego. As of Dec. 11, dialing the new area code became mandatory.

Already there is talk of creating yet another area code, with the southern and eastern portion of the current 619 area code becoming 935. But at least some San Diegans can breathe a sigh of relief, because that might not happen.

Pacific Bell announced Jan. 25 that it will ask state regulators to drop or postpone plans to create the additional 935 area code.

Optimistic About Code

“Right now, Pacific Bell is optimistic that potentially that split may not have to happen. And we’re hoping it doesn’t,” said Maurice Luque, a spokesman for the phone company.

Pacific Bell is looking at the results from the 858 area code split. Since there are so many 858 numbers that are no longer part of the 619 area code, that frees the phone company to reassign those numbers into 619. That means 619 won’t be running out of numbers for a while, Luque said.

Pacific Bell plans to bring the issue before the California Public Utilities Commission, which regulates area code assignments. The commission is expected to hold hearings on the proposed change later this year, Luque said.

If the commission decides in favor of creating a new area code, then Pacific Bell is proposing the new 935 code be in the form of a “seven-digit overlay.” That means newly assigned phone numbers get the new 935 area code, while already existing phone numbers get to keep the 619 area code. Also, 619 people will be able to phone each other without having to dial 1-619 first, Luque said.

Changing Numbers Allocation

Meantime, the California Public Utilities Commission is hoping to implement a change in the way phone numbers are allocated. If the Federal Communications Commission approves, that should help limit the need for new area codes.

Currently, phone companies must receive telephone numbers in blocks of 10,000. A small phone company, if it hopes to do business in California, must buy 10,000 phone numbers.

But a smaller company might not be able to get that many customers. If that phone company has only 200 phone numbers assigned, it leaves 9,800 unused phone numbers. That helps create the shortage of phone numbers, which in return creates the need for new area codes, Luque said.

“It’s a system that used to work well when there wasn’t competition and other phone company providers , nor pagers and fax numbers and a lot of demands like there are now. It was an old system,” Luque said. “But now it doesn’t work so well and needs to be revamped. But it’s up to the FCC to do it.”

Armando Rendon, a spokesman for the California Public Utilities Commission, said the change is already being implemented.

In April, the commission petitioned the FCC for permission to sell phone numbers in blocks of 1,000 instead of the customary 10,000. The federal government gave interim approval to the proposal in September, and since then the CPUC has been doing just that.

Neither Luque nor Rendon had any knowledge on when a hearing on a new area code would be scheduled, nor how much time it would take until the area code would be implemented.


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