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Area Code
Frequently Asked Questions



Question WHY ARE AREA CODES NEEDED AND WHAT IS THEIR PURPOSE?
Answer Area codes are a part of the telephone number that routes long distance calls to their destination. When the area code is combined with the first three digits of a seven-digit local telephone number (known as the NXX code or Central Office code), a geographic address is formed that routes calls through the telephone network. The area code and NXX code together "tell" the call which central office station to go, and the final four digits identify the specific individual customer line.
Question WHY ARE THERE SUDDENLY SO MANY NEW AREA CODES?
Answer

In Florida and around the country, the demand for new telephone numbers has been growing at a rapid rate in recent years, resulting in a shortage of available numbers in many areas. There are a variety of factors involved in this growing demand, including population increases and the development of new technology in the form of fax machines, cellular phones, computer modems, pagers and many more telecommunications devices that require use of telephone numbers.

Another problem is the method used to distribute phone numbers. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the national regulatory agency for the telephone industry, previously required that every local phone company licensed to do business in a state be assigned phone numbers in blocks of 10,000 — whether they need that many numbers or not. To address this problem, numbers are now being assigned in blocks of 1000. This process, known as number pooling, has been implemented in all of Florida's 17 area codes.

Question WHAT IS AREA CODE "EXHAUSTION"?
Answer Within an area code, there are typically 792 NXX codes available for assignment to local telephone companies. As each NXX code has approximately 10,000 line numbers, the phone companies have 7,920,000 numbers to distribute to residential and business customers. Area code exhaustion occurs when nearly all of the NXX codes in an area code have been assigned to telephone service providers. This does not mean that all numbers within the NXX codes have been assigned to customers.
Question WHAT HAPPENS WHEN AN AREA CODE HAS BEEN EXHAUSTED?
Answer When all of the NXX codes in an area code are assigned to telecommunications service providers, the area code is "exhausted." When this occurs, a new area code must be implemented.
Question HOW ARE NEW AREA CODES PUT IN PLACE?
Answer

New area codes are usually implemented in one of two ways.

First, they can be implemented through a "geographic split." The geographic area using an existing area code is split into two parts, with some telephone customers continuing to be served through the existing area code while others must change to a new area code.

New area codes can also be implemented through an "area code overlay", in which the new area code covers the same geographic areas as an existing code, but with new customers in that area being assigned to the new, or overlay, area code.

Question HOW DO GEOGRAPHIC SPLITS AND AREA CODE OVERLAYS AFFECT THE WAY LOCAL CALLS ARE MADE?
Answer

With a geographic split, local calls are still made by dialing seven digits. This applies to both the area that retains the existing area code and the area that receives the new area code. All local rates remain the same.

However, the FCC has required 10-digit dialing between and within area codes in the geographic area covered by an area code overlay. This means that every local call, even if it is a call to someone in the same area code as the caller, must be dialed using 10 digits.

Question WHY IS 10-DIGIT DIALING NECESSARY WHEN AN AREA CODE OVERLAY IS IMPLEMENTED?
Answer The FCC argues that 10-digit dialing will protect competition in the overlay area. This is because a local dialing disparity would occur without 10-digit dialing. Existing telephone users likely would remain in the old area code in order to utilize seven-digit dialing, while new users receiving the overlay code would have to dial 10 digits to reach any customers in the old code.

Under this scenario, phone customers would be less likely to switch to a new company if the company had to give them a telephone number with the new area code. Those customers would have to dial 10 digits much more often than an incumbent Bell company's customers. Also, all customers would be required to dial 10 digits to reach people who have new carriers when they would only have to dial seven digits for most of their other calls.

Question HOW DO CUSTOMERS IN AN OVERLAY AREA KNOW WHETHER THE CALLS THEY MAKE ARE LOCAL, LOCAL TOLL OR LONG DISTANCE?
Answer

In Florida, for an overlay area, both local and local toll calls are made by dialing 10 digits - the area code and the seven-digit phone number. It is true that the number of digits dialed does not reveal whether the call being made is local or local toll. When in doubt, customers should check the information provided in their telephone directory before dialing.

For long distance calls, the callers are required to dial "1" followed by the area code and the seven-digit phone number.

Question WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR CHOOSING HOW A NEW AREA CODE WILL BE INTRODUCED?
Answer The FCC has exclusive jurisdiction over the numbering plan in the United States, but it has delegated authority to state regulatory commissions to resolve matters involving the implementation of new area codes, subject to certain specific federal regulations. In Florida, the Public Service Commission (PSC) has been given this authority by the FCC.
Question WHAT IS BEING DONE TO SLOW THE NEED FOR NEW AREA CODES?
Answer

In Florida, the PSC has relied on the authority granted to it by the FCC to adopt sweeping measures designed to conserve dwindling supplies of telephone numbers in the state. Each NXX code has 10 blocks of 1,000 telephone numbers. "Number Pooling," a process that allows several phone companies to share a single block of telephone numbers, has been implemented in the 305, 321, 407, 386, 561, 754, 786, 813, 904, 941, 954 area codes. All remaining area codes will be included in the FCC's National Number Pooling Rollout Schedule which began in mid 2002.

Question CAN NEW AREA CODES BE RESERVED FOR A NEW TECHNOLOGY SUCH AS WIRELESS TELEPHONES IN ORDER TO PRESERVE EXISTING ONES FOR LAND-LINE CUSTOMERS?
Answer

In its recent order, the FCC reconsidered its earlier decision, and granted (on a limited basis) deployment of technology-specific overlays.

Question HOW MANY AREA CODES ARE AVAILABLE?
Answer

There are a total of 680 usable area codes available for assignment in North America.

Question WHAT WILL HAPPEN IF WE RUN OUT OF AREA CODES?
Answer If all of the available area codes are used, our dialing pattern would need to be expanded by one or more digits. Because changing the dialing plan in this manner would require significant time for transition and would involve substantial expense, the FCC has proposed a number of ways to slow down the consumption of available telephone numbers and thereby preserve the life of our current 10-digit dialing pattern for as long as possible.
Question WHERE CAN I FIND MORE INFORMATION ON AREA CODES?
Answer Call the PSC's toll-free consumer line at 1-800-342-3552. Staff from our Office of Consumer Assistance and Outreach will be able to assist you with specific questions about Florida's area codes.

You may also contact the PSC by e-mail at contact@psc.state.fl.us by toll-free fax at 1-800-511-0809; or by mail at the following address:

Florida Public Service Commission
Office of Consumer Assistance and Outreach
2540 Shumard Oak Blvd.
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0850



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Florida Public Service Commission
2540 Shumard Oak Blvd.
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0850
1-800-342-3552