The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) unanimously approved a plan Thursday, August 25th, for an all-services area code overlay to the existing 310 area code.

The commission ordered the implementation of the new 424 area code.

An overlay will not require consumers with existing telephone numbers to change their area code, but consumers who want new telephone numbers will have to accept numbers with the new 424 area code.

Telephone lines in the same residence, business or multiple cell phone plan could have two different area codes if new telephone numbers are assigned.

“We have made every effort possible to avoid a split or overlay, and for quite some time our number conservation efforts held off the need for implementation of a relief plan,” said commission president Michael Peevey.

All calls within the 310 and 424 overlay region, which extends from Santa Monica to San Pedro, will have to be made with 11-digit dialing.

Calls will have to start with the number “1” followed by the three-digit area code and the seven-digit line number.

Consumers may practice dialing 11 digits beginning Saturday, December 31st.

Starting July 26th, consumers will be required to use 11-digit dialing.

Telephone numbers with the new 424 area code will begin to be assigned on or after August 26th of next year.

Congresswoman Jane Harman and Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe said they were disappointed with the commission’s decision.

“I am disappointed that the PUC has put the bottom line of the telephone companies ahead of the public interest,” Harman said.

A joint coalition of six major telephone companies has been lobbying the CPUC for an all- services overlay for several months.

The telephone companies urged the CPUC to approve the overlay because the companies said the 310 area code is running out of telephone numbers.

A diverse group of local politicians have argued that area code changes are burdensome to residents and businesses.

They also contended that changes to dialing patterns are difficult for senior citizens and the disabled.

On Wednesday, August 24th, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved a technology overlay in the 310 area code.

The technology overlay will preserve telephone numbers within the 310 area code for residents and businesses by assigning a 424 area code to technology phone numbers.

Technology phone numbers are used to operate cash registers, automated teller machines, Internet lines, credit card machines, and point-of-sale machines.

Also last week, the California State Senate approved California State Assembly Bill 1380, authored by the late Assemblymember Mike Gordon.

Assembly Bill 1380 establishes guidelines for telephone companies to better manage their number resources. Telephone companies would also be required to return unused telephone numbers after six months.

Gordon believed that more than two million unused telephone numbers existed in the 310 area code and that telephone companies were mismanaging the number resources.

To become law, Assembly Bill 1380 will have to be signed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

“On a week where the FCC ruled to explore other options and the California State Senate passed legislation mandating inventory guidelines, the alternatives to area code relief clearly have momentum,” Harman said.

Knabe said legislation previously signed into state law before Assembly Bill 1380 requires that all efforts to preserve existing telephone numbers in an area code be made.

“California law requires that all efforts must be exhausted before a split or overlay such as the one approved can ever occur,” Knabe said. “That action has not happened.”

He said the CPUC approved the overlay based on outdated studies of how many unused telephone numbers existed in the 310 area code.

Another study is currently in progress to determine how many telephone numbers exist now in the 310 area code after several years of number conservation efforts have been made.

Knabe said the commission should have waited for this current study to be completed before approving the overlay.

“Unfortunately, the PUC’s decision ignores these legal mandates,” Knabe said.

“The decision by the PUC represents a disregard for the thousands of small business owners and residents who live within the 310 area code region.”

Harman said the inventory of unused telephone numbers includes deactivated pager numbers.

Harman and Knabe said they would continue to oppose and prevent the overlay from taking place until a complete inventory of unused telephone numbers in the 310 area code is made public.

“Together with the South Bay Association of Chambers of Commerce, the South Bay Council of Governments and a strong coalition of community leaders, preserving the 310 area code is truly possible,” Harman said.

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