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News Release
 
Commission Seeks Comment on New 541 Area Code Options
 
June 10, 2008 (2008-012) (UM-1380)
 
Contacts:  Lee Beyer, Chairman, 503 378-6611; Ray Baum, Commissioner, 503 378-6611; John Savage, Commissioner, 503 378-6611; Bob Valdez, Public Affairs Specialist, 503 378-8962
 
Salem, Ore. Today the Oregon Public Utility Commission opened an investigation to find the best solution to a looming shortage of telephone numbers in the 541 area code.
 
The 541 area code is expected to run out of new telephone numbers by the first quarter of 2011. The telecommunications industry has asked the Commission to approve what’s called an All Services Overlay. This means an additional area code would serve the entire 541 area. Under this plan, numbers issued after the effective date would have the new area code after all of the 541 numbers have been  exhausted.
 
“While the change is several years away we must begin laying the groundwork now to ensure the transition is trouble free,” Commission Chairman Lee Beyer said. “We want to make sure the public knows about this issue and has a chance to tell us what they think.”
 
This summer the Commission staff will gather input from affected customers and make a recommendation to the Commission this fall. 
 
The biggest possible change for residents is that upon implementation, local calls will require ten-digit dialing. Currently, local calls require just 7 digits.
 
There are at least four options under consideration. All have their pros and cons.
 
A new area code will apply to all telephones, including wireless and landline. Rates for local calls will not change. Dialing for 911 will not change.
 
The Commission is finalizing a schedule of locations in the 541 region to hold Open House meetings to inform and take comment from the public.
 
In 1995, the PUC approved a new area code to meet increased demand for numbers. Northwest Oregon kept the 503 area code. The remainder of the state received the new 541 area code. In 2000, the PUC added the 971 area code to the 503 region.
 
Since 2005, of the 17 new area codes issued in the nation, 14 of them (82%) were overlays.
 
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