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Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20554
News media information 202 / 418-0500
Fax-On-Demand 202 / 418-2830
Internet: http://www.fcc.gov
TTY: 202/418-2555


This is an unofficial announcement of Commission action. Release of the full text of a Commission order constitutes official action. See MCI v. FCC. 515 F 2d 385 (D.C. Circ 1974).

FROM THE OFFICE OF THE FCC CHAIRMAN

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 8, 1999

NEWS MEDIA CONTACT:
Emily Hoffnar (202) 418-0253

FCC CHAIRMAN WILLIAM E. KENNARD LAUNCHES
CONSUMER INFORMATION CAMPAIGN ON AREA CODES


Federal Communications Commission Chairman William E. Kennard today launched a telephone area code consumer information campaign. "People have a lot of questions about their area codes. This information campaign will answer consumer questions and minimize confusion as well as explain how the FCC plans to significantly reduce the frequency of area code changes," Kennard said.

The Area Code Consumer Information Campaign includes a number of outreach efforts that will make area code and telephone numbering information available to consumers. The key parts of the campaign are:

  • A "Consumer Advisory" on area codes posted on the FCC's internet web site (http://www.fcc.gov).

  • A page of "Frequently Asked Questions" about area codes and telephone numbers, also posted on the FCC internet web site. This question and answer page provides both technical information about the number crunch and answers to common sense questions like, "Why do some customers have to dial 10 digits for every call?"

  • Links to the North American Numbering Plan Administrator web site, which provides information on the status of all area codes.

  • Mailings to local newspapers nationwide.

  • Joint efforts with FCC officials joining local phone companies and state, local, and consumer representatives involved with the area code information effort.
"We are working closely with the states in considering various proposals to address the area code challenge. In May, the FCC launched a formal inquiry into the most economical way to increase the efficiency with which telecommunications providers use telephone numbers. This process will lead to a new system of assigning telephone numbers that will take us well into the next century," Kennard said. The need for a new system is pressing: of the 215 area codes now in use, over 70 may need new area codes within the next year or two.

For most of this century, Americans were accustomed to homes and businesses with just one main telephone line. Over the past two decades, however, the use of wireless telephones, fax lines and internet access lines - each with their own number - has exploded and the pool of available numbers is quickly becoming exhausted. Even small businesses often have dozens of phone lines and homes with two or more lines are common. But increasing demand for numbers by consumers and businesses is not the main reason for the recent increase in area code changes. The main reason is that the telephone numbering system was designed for use in a monopoly environment. New telephone companies need numbers to provide service. The good news is that many new telephone companies are seeking telephone numbers to compete.

The 1996 Telecommunications Act ushered in the age of local telephone competition. Competitors to the Baby Bells, as well as paging companies and wireless telephone companies all need telephone numbers before they can do business. Sometimes those inventories are large - and have resulted in the need for new area codes. Because of technical requirements, large inventories of numbers are given out, instead of a smaller amount. The FCC is considering ways to tap into these large inventories of unused numbers, and ways to give out numbers in smaller quantities.

"The explosion in the use of telephone lines for new services presents a challenge for the industry and for regulators. I am certain, however, that together we will find the most efficient way to improve area code use and meet this challenge. Americans have long enjoyed the most reliable and highest quality phone network in the world and the FCC is committed to preserving those qualities," Kennard said.

For more information on area code issues, contact the FCC Call Center toll free at 1-888-CALL-FCC, or visit the FCC's internet web site at http://www.fcc.gov.
TTY: 1-888-835-5322