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Area Code Changes Creating Problems

Telecom: Callers report difficulty completing calls to some regions of state, prompting PUC to issue advisory to businesses.


The introduction of new area codes in California has created problems for customers placing calls to those regions, prompting carriers to examine their networks, industry officials said Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the California Public Utilities Commission is expected to release an advisory today urging businesses to test their telephone systems, after the agency fielded a handful of complaints from customers who have been unable to get through to numbers in regions where area codes are changing.

Officials said they are uncertain how many people have been affected by the problem but that it appears to involve the failure of some carriers to upgrade their switches for the area code changes, as well as glitches in older exchange systems used by large companies.

The problem was first reported a month ago at a statewide meeting of carriers, said Doug Hescox, the California code administrator who oversees the introduction of new area codes.

"Whenever you do a new area code, there are always problems," Hescox said. "This one seems to be a little more pervasive."

He declined to say which companies reported receiving complaints. The meeting was attended by major carriers including Pacific Bell, GTE and AT&T, as well as many smaller carriers that have entered the market since industry deregulation last year.

"Some carriers may have programmed switches incorrectly," Hescox said, adding that companies have examined their networks and are scheduled to report the results Friday.

Executives from GTE and Pacific Bell, the state's largest local carriers, said they were unaware of any problems with their networks.

California is in the midst of a series of area code changes affecting millions of customers. Southern California area codes 310 and 619 were recently divided after surging demand for new phone lines exhausted available phone numbers.

Area code 818 in the San Fernando Valley is scheduled to undergo a split next month.

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