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News Release
971 Area Code Fact Sheet
September 27, 2000 (2000-046)
Contacts: Ron Eachus, Chairman, 503 378-6611; Roger Hamilton, Commissioner, 503 378-6611; Joan H. Smith, Commissioner, 503 378-6611; Bob Valdez, Public Information Officer, 503 378-8962
Salem, OR - On October 1, 2000, a new 971 area code will be overlaid on most of the existing Oregon 503 area code, which serves the greater northwestern portion of the state, including Portland and Salem. A consequence of the decision to use an overlay method instead of a geographic split is that ten-digit dialing will become mandatory for all calls, including local calls. This fact sheet is designed to help explain the reasons for the new area code and the overlay approach as well as answer some frequently asked questions about the impact and effect on consumers.
Why does Oregon need another area code?
The last area code was assigned in 1995 and Oregon is running out of usable telephone number prefixes in the 503 area code. The demand for numbers is due to a combination of factors. The opening of local telephone markets to competition has meant that new competitors have been allocated large blocks of numbers. In addition new technologies such as pagers, fax machines, voice mail, cellular and other wireless devices have greatly increased the demand for numbers.
When will the area code change go into effect?
Mandatory Date, October 1, 2000.
The new area code will take effect October 1, 2000. It may take a while before new numbers with a 971 area code are assigned to customers. However, because there will be two area codes applying to the same geographic area, ten digit dialing will become necessary for all calls within and between the 503 and 971 area codes.
Who will have the new area code?
The new area code overlays the same boundaries as the current 503 area code, except for the coastal communities in Clatsop and Tillamook counties. If you were assigned the 503 area code when you obtained your phone number, that number will stay the same. Only persons within the 503 area code requiring a new phone number will be assigned the new area code of 971, and only after a telephone provider’s allocated 503 numbers have all been assigned to customers.
What is ten-digit dialing and who will need to dial 10 digits?
For all callers within the 503/971 area codes, placing of local calls will need to include the area code. That is, callers must dial 10-digit phone numbers. It makes no difference whether your call is to the same area code.
The exception is the Northwest coastal area which will keep the 503 area code but will not be assigned the new 971 code. The coastal communities within the exchanges of Warrenton, Astoria, Knappa, Seaside, Jewell, Cannon Beach, Nehalem, Rockaway, Garibaldi, Bay City, Tillamook, Pacific City, and Cloverdale will not be assigned the new 971 area code at this time and will retain seven-digit dialing for local calls. These areas have not experienced enough growth to warrant new prefixes.
Why did the PUC choose the overlay method?
There was no perfect solution to the prefix shortage problem. In the judgment of the Commission, the overlay method will cause the least inconvenience and disruption, now and in the future. Customers will not have to bear the cost and inconvenience of changing their current numbers. The Portland area will not be split into smaller and smaller geographic area codes. And the overlay method conserves more numbers than a geographic split and will delay the need for another new area code. The Commission considered and rejected the other two major options for the following reasons:
Geographic Split
The previous and traditional method of creating new area codes is to do a geographic split and assign a new area code to the newly created area. However, that means that all customers in the new area, (which would have been greater Portland), must change their telephone numbers. It also meant that some communities, such as Gresham, would have been split between two area codes because telephone exchange boundaries don’t coincide with community boundaries. Another factor was that the geographic split would not coincide with the regional Extended Area Service (EAS) boundaries for the 32 exchanges in the Portland EAS region within which all calls are local. Given that the Portland area has the most growth in phone numbers, the Commission also considered the future impact. Continuing with the geographic split would mean continually splitting Portland into new area codes with smaller and smaller areas.
Technological Overlay
Many citizens wanted us to impose the new area code on the numbers for the new technologies, such as pagers and cell phones, that were accelerating the depletion of number availability. This is often called the "technological overlay." The Commission considered this option but rejected it because there are legal constraints on how it can be applied and because it is only an efficient method when there is enough demand for cell phones to create a stand alone area code. Otherwise there is a waste of numbers set aside for a technology that does not have enough demand for the numbers. In addition, it would mean that all existing cell phones would need to be reprogrammed. The technology overlay has been adopted in highly populated areas such as Los Angeles and San Francisco. But those are regions which have already split the metropolitan area into many smaller area codes and in which there is an anticipated demand for 4-5 million cell phone numbers. In that case the cell phone area code can be overlaid on top of many existing area codes. The existing 503 area code and Portland are not in that situation.
What phone services will NOT change?
  • Local calling areas – geographic areas in which all calls are local and do not require long distance calling. However, local calls will require ten digit dialing after the mandatory dialing date.

  • Your existing telephone number.

  • Emergency calls to 9-1-1 or calls to 500, 700, 800, 888, 900 and 950 numbers.

  • Directory assistance.
How will this new 971 area code impact telephone service?
The new area code will be assigned in a given prefix to customers only after all 503 numbers in that prefix are exhausted. If a customer currently has a 503 area code phone number, that number will not change. Only newly assigned phone numbers within the 503 area boundary will receive the new 971 area code.
Will a home or business have phones with two different area codes?
That is possible, but only after all 503 numbers are exhausted. Many 503 numbers have been allocated to telephone service providers but they have not been assigned to customers. If you order a new phone line after October 1, 2000 you may be issued a 971 area code for the new line. However, phone companies must first exhaust their inven-tory of 503 prefixes before they begin assigning 971 numbers, so a customer adding phones may still receive a 503 number. It's expected the new 971 prefixes will begin showing up by early December. However, keep in mind, that everyone in the 503/971 area must dial 10-digit phone numbers after the mandatory date of October 1, 2000.
There is no need to dial a "1" for local calls.
Existing local calls will remain local calls. The only thing that changes for local calls is the need to use the ten digit number. There is no need to dial a "1" in front of the 10 digits when calling a local number in the 503/971 area code.
If a customer mistakenly dials "1" before ten digits for a local call, will the customer have to pay long-distance charges?
Local calling areas do not change. If a call is a local call today, it will remain a local call no matter which area code is dialed. If a call is a long-distance call today, it will remain a long distance call, regardless of which area code is dialed. If a customer mistakenly dials a "1" for a local call, there should be no long distance charge. The phone company should either allow the call to go through or the customer should get a recording stating that the call does not require a "1" and should be redialed.
Isn’t the ten digit dialing confusing and time consuming?
At its inception some people may find that dialing ten digits when they are used to dialing only seven may be confusing. However, most customers make a significant amount of calls using ten or more numbers already. The additional time it takes to dial three additional numbers should be minimal. It may make it more difficult to immediately discern the location of a number, but even with the 503 area code there is no distinction between communities – Salem and Portland are both 503. The association of a number with communities is usually by the prefix and the area code, not just the area code. Given the growth in numbers throughout the country, indications from the Federal Communications Commission are that ten digit dialing will eventually become mandatory throughout the country.
Do I need to re-program my cellular telephone and other wireless communication devices?
Most cellular phones and pagers do not need reprogramming to dial ten digits.
What other communication services might be affected?
  • Calling features such as speed calling and call forwarding will need reprogramming in order to dial the new ten digit numbers.

  • Implementation of the 971 overlay was delayed until October 1, 2000 so alarm companies could have time to reprogram their equipment for the new area code. Customers should notify their alarm-monitoring company if they have a new area code that impacts the alarm service.
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