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New 951 Area Code Is Proposed for Western Riverside County

The PUC plan would keep western San Bernardino County in 909. But one member of the commission says the split isn't necessary.

October 01, 2003|Janet Wilson | Times Staff Writer

Western San Bernardino County would keep the 909 area code, and nearly all of western Riverside County would be switched to a new 951 number, under a draft decision released Tuesday by the California Public Utilities Commission.

The eastern parts of the counties are in the 760 area code and are unaffected by the proposal.

But both counties may hang onto the 909 code a bit longer if a plan proposed by one commissioner is adopted instead.

In his decision, Administrative Law Judge Thomas Pulsifer said a geographic split of the fast-growing Inland Empire to add a 951 area code is needed "to ensure a continued supply of numbering resources to serve customers in the region," and to ease concerns that all unassigned 909 numbers will be used up by year's end.

He said splitting the area would be easier for residents than imposing an overlay on both counties -- issuing 951 numbers to new accounts in both counties -- which could require people to dial 10 digits instead of seven even if they were dialing across the street.

But Commissioner Loretta Lynch, who has long argued that the cell phone industry is hoarding unused numbers, said there were plenty of unassigned 909 numbers left because of zealous conservation measures in the last four years, including requiring phone companies to give back unused prefixes.

"Adequate telephone numbers still are available in the 909 area code to provide customers and telephone carriers with sufficient service," she wrote. "It is not necessary at this time to split or overlay the 909 area code."

Lynch said the Federal Communications Commission's recent approval of further conservation measures meant that at least 280,000 unused telephone numbers in the 909 area would be available in coming months.

One such measure, which is scheduled to take effect in late November, will allow cell phone customers to keep the same phone number if they choose to switch carriers while staying in the same service area.

"The commission should closely monitor the additional need for telephone numbers in the 909 area code during the next six months to assure adequate telephone number supplies," she said. "Prior to imposing the burden of an area code split or overlay on businesses and families in the 909 area code, the commission should evaluate the success of wireless industry compliance with the ... new requirements this November."

A cell phone industry spokeswoman reached late in the day said she was not familiar with the details of the decisions.

The five-member commission will accept public comments for the next 20 days, respond to comments for an additional 10 days and could vote on the proposals as soon as Oct. 30.

If the 951 plan is adopted, Riverside County residents with the exception of the Calimesa area would be required to begin using the new area code Oct. 30, 2004.

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