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News Release
 
Area Code Implementation Delayed
 
September 21, 1999 (1999-040)
 
Contacts: Ron Eachus, Chairman, 503 378-6611; Roger Hamilton, Commissioner 503 378-6611; Joan H. Smith, Commissioner, 503 378-6611; Ron Karten, Public Information Officer, 503 378-8962
 
Salem, OR – The Oregon Public Utility Commission (OPUC) today delayed until October 1, 2000, the implementation of the new 971 area code and mandatory 10-digit dialing, citing a slowdown in telephone company requests for new prefixes and an alarm industry needing more time to reprogram thousands of systems.
 
The new area code, which would overlay most of the 503 area code territory, was scheduled for implementation January 30, 2000 because prefixes were being allocated to telephone companies faster than expected. However, the OPUC staff reported that the demand for new prefixes had slowed and suggested that delay would enable a more efficient use of the supply of 503 numbers.
Many alarm companies also complained that they could not meet the January 2000 deadline because older systems installed in the 1980s can’t be reprogrammed without an on-site visit by a qualified employee.
 
Commissioners said they supported the delay with some reluctance since many telephone companies and businesses had already spent money in preparation for the earlier implementation date and there was a risk that requests for more prefixes could accelerate again.
 
However, Commission Chairman Ron Eachus said changes since April when the Commission made its earlier decision made delay possible. "Because of the need for new area codes there’s been a lot of attention nationally to ways to manage and conserve numbers, and a later date means we’ll be able to use more of the existing 503 numbers."
 
Commissioners said they would not change the date again and would not revisit the decision to use an overlay area code rather than a geographic split.
 
"I make this decision to delay very reluctantly, and only to accommodate the alarm industry," said Commissioner Joan Smith. "My decision on the overlay stands. The industry has made a good faith effort to educate the public and I thank them for that."
 
Once the new area code takes effect, telephone companies will no longer be allocated remaining prefixes from the 503 code. Delaying the implementation date allows the industry to use up more of the 503 numbers.
 
A major factor driving the need for more numbers is the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) procedure of allocating numbers in 10,000-number blocks. Consequently, the Commission also decided to seek authority from the FCC to request that companies "turn on" numbers sequentially, in 1,000-number blocks, and return unused blocks for reassignment to other locations.
 
The Commission believed this will relieve pressure for a new area code in the 541 area and in the coastal area of 503 not subject to the 971 area code.
 
 
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