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News Release
 
New Area Code Draws Near
 
September 1, 2000 (2000-043)
 
Contacts: Ron Eachus, Chairman, 503 378-6611; Roger Hamilton, Commissioner, 503 378-6611; Joan H. Smith, Commissioner, 503 378-6611; Sterling Sawyer Senior Analyst 503 378-6621; Bob Valdez, Public Information Officer, 503 378-8962
 
Salem, OR. It will be here before you know it. The Oregon Public Utility Commission is reminding Oregonians they'll soon have to dial ten digits to make calls in the 503-area code. October 1, 2000 the new area code--971--will be overlaid on top of most of the existing 503 area code. Clatsop and Tillamook counties were left out because they have not had enough growth to warrant being included in the overlay.
 
Callers can prepare for the change now. Through what is known as "permissive dialing" you can now dial ten digits for your local calls. But come October 1, 2000, ten digit local dialing will be mandatory within the 503 area code, and local calls not using all ten digits will not go through.
 
With a partial overlay, new numbers will be assigned the 971 area code. It is projected the new area code will have a projected life of nine years before the numbers are exhausted.
 
"We chose the overlay because the new area code will last longer and we think the federal regulators will be requiring ten-digit dialing eventually anyway." Commission Chairman Ron Eachus said. "This way we won't have to keep splitting the Portland Metro region into smaller and smaller areas."
 
The Commission carefully considered the benefits and drawbacks of overlay vs. split options. The overlay places the new area code right on top of the old one, meaning that an area is served by two area codes.
 
The Commission chose the overlay option in order to avoid creating artificial boundaries between neighborhoods. The overlay increases the time when another area code will be needed and is consistent with the Extended Area Service (EAS) program in the region. Also under the overlay option, no current customers will have to make changes to their phone numbers or their stationery.
 
The change was initially scheduled to take effect in January 30 of this year. However, last September the Commission granted a delay to give the alarm industry additional time to reprogram thousands of systems.
 
Even though the change takes effect October 1, 2000, it is unlikely the public will have to dial a 971-prefix number until early next year. That's because 503 prefixes first must be used before the new 971 prefix numbers are made available to customers. And even then it's envisioned the change will be gradual with just a few hundred 971 numbers assigned initially. 
 
See Fact Sheet below for more information
 
 
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Oregon 503/971 Area Code Fact Sheet

 
 
What are the foremost benefits of using the overlay versus a split?
  1. The overlay conserves more numbers than the split, and will delay the need for another new area code.

  2. An overlay avoids creating artificial boundaries between neighborhoods and is consistent with the Extended Area Service (EAS) in the region, which permits callers to make toll-free calls within EAS regions.

  3. The overlay preserves all existing phone numbers and thus eliminates the need to order new stationery and other inconveniences because your phone number has changed.

  4. Because all customers keep their existing numbers, the overlay also preserves the value of existing advertising.

  5. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) may mandate ten digit local dialing across the nation in the near future, so although ten-digit local dialing is now considered a drawback of the overlay option in a short time it may be required everywhere.
 
What will change?
Ten-digit dialing will be necessary for all local calls within the new 971 area code. Alarm systems, private telephone systems, computers using modems, and telephones themselves may need to be reprogrammed to dial ten digits. Any system that automatically dials a local telephone number today may have to be reprogrammed.
IMPORTANT REMINDER: "1" before a 10-digit telephone number has long been the indicator in Oregon that a long distance telephone number follows. To avoid billing mix-ups, remember not to dial the "1" before local 10-digit numbers.
 
Why were Clatsop and Tillamook counties not included in the 971 area code?
Clatsop and Tillamook counties will retain the 503 area code because they have not experienced enough growth to warrant new prefixes. In Commission visits to those counties, community leaders sought to retain seven-digit dialing for as long as possible. Local calling is confined to small communities and is not as widely dispersed as it is in the Metro area.
Why is the 503 area code running out of numbers?
The Number Planning Administrator appointed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) traditionally assigned phone numbers to companies for specific service areas in batches of 10,000, whether an area could use all those numbers or not, leaving many numbers unused. Many unused numbers are simply too expensive to recover. In addition, existing numbers are being used up more quickly as a result of explosive growth in telecommunications such as the Internet, pagers cellular telephones and competition.
What is being done to prevent explosive number growth?
There are many efforts underway to respond to the growing demand for phone numbers. One includes recovering numbers not being used in areas where wire centers serve small communities.
 
The FCC recently changed the way numbers are handed out, so that no more than 1,000 are either handed out or activated at any one time. Oregon has received FCC authority and is moving ahead to implement individual conservation measures.