YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


Order to Release Unused Phone Numbers Could Delay 805 Split

Telecom: FCC gives state regulators clearance to force PacBell, GTE and others to relinquish thousands of numbers that can be assigned to other carriers.


New federal rules that can force telephone companies to release unused numbers could slow or even stop the splitting of the 805 area code, state Sen. Jack O'Connell said Wednesday.

The prospect of such a delay was applauded by other Ventura County officials, who have been lobbying against splitting the area code because of problems it would cause area businesses.

"It is good news," Ventura County Supervisor Frank Schillo said. "I hate to see them even continuing to consider the change of the 805 area code, but if they can find ways to at least delay the breakup . . . between the three counties, that's good."

With the proliferation of cell phones, beepers and Internet lines spurring a rising demand for additional phone numbers, the state Public Utilities Commission had called for a new area code in the 805 district by 2002. The area code covers Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties.

If 805 is divided, one of the new sections would include Ventura County and a small portion of Santa Barbara County. The other would include the rest of Santa Barbara County and all of San Luis Obispo County.

O'Connell (D-San Luis Obispo) pointed out that telephone companies could be sitting on large blocks of unused phone numbers. While numbers have traditionally been released to phone companies in blocks of 10,000, PUC officials now plan to release numbers in some regions in blocks of 1,000.

"Potentially, you could have one company with 10,000 phone numbers reserved and they could serve two customers," said O'Connell, who highlighted the issue in a letter to the North American Numbering Plan Administration, which recommends new codes to the PUC. "That's a lot of numbers that could be distributed."

The Federal Communications Commission gave the PUC the green light to distribute numbers in groups of 1,000 in September. It also allowed state regulators to force utilities such as Pacific Bell and GTE to relinquish unused numbers so that they can be assigned to other carriers, O'Connell said.

O'Connell and other officials say that changing Ventura County's area code would be expensive, forcing companies to update phone systems, and change letterhead and business cards.

The PUC has ordered the roughly 40 phone companies that serve Ventura County to report how many unused phone numbers they have, said Kyle Devine, a PUC spokeswoman. The companies have until October to disclose the information.

But the agency isn't promising that numbers will be issued in blocks of 1,000 in Ventura County, only that it is in favor of using the system.

The FCC has stipulated that the PUC implement the new number-issuing system in only one area code at a time, leaving the state agency to change the system first in most-stressed area codes, such as those in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Phone numbers will be issued in blocks of 1,000 starting this weekend in Los Angeles' 310 area code. The same will happen soon in San Francisco's 415 area code. The PUC hopes to implement the same system in Ventura County soon.

"We just simply haven't gotten to the 805 area code because we're starting with the ones that need the most relief," Devine said. "Now that we have gotten authority from the FCC to implement number pooling, which is what breaks those prefixes into 1,000 blocks, we're going to use it as quickly as possible."

County Supervisor John K. Flynn hadn't heard of the rule change, but said it sounded like a good idea. An ardent opponent of changing Ventura County's area code, he said distributing phone numbers in clusters of 1,000 "sounds plausible and like a more efficient system."


Splitting 805 Proposed

A proposal has been made to divide the 805 area code into two parts. However, it is unclear which new area would retain the 805 area code or adopt a new one.


Source: Lockheed Martin


Los Angeles Times Articles