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County of Santa Clara Supervisors Weigh in on Implementation of New Area Code

Supervisors Recommend Overlay Method for Addition of New 669 Area Code to 408 Area Code Boundary

SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIF. – After reviewing feedback from the California Public Utilities Commission, local businesses and residents, the County of Santa Clara Board of Supervisors decided with a 4-1 vote (Supervisor Kniss dissenting), to ask the California Public Utilities Commission to use the overlay method when implementing its 669 area code. The new area code will be added to the 408 area code boundary by the end of this year.

“Ultimately this issue will be decided by the California Public Utilities Commission,” said President Dave Cortese, County of Santa Clara Board of Supervisors. “Simply put, we are recommending the least disruptive way possible to implement a new area code and expand our capacity to stay connected with each other.”

The new area code in Santa Clara County is needed because whole prefixes are nearly exhausted in the existing 408 area code. Once an area code no longer has any whole prefixes, it is considered to be exhausted. The available prefixes in the 408 area code are limited and will not be able to support the needed demand for telephone numbers beyond the end of 2012.

Last March, the California Public Utilities Commission invited the County of Santa Clara Board of Supervisors to provide input into the decision making process on how a new area code would be introduced within the 408 area code boundary. Public hearings were held in San Jose, Los Gatos and Morgan Hill to explain the necessary area code switch.

Currently, the two methods of implementation for a new area code are a geographic split and the overlay. In the geographic split method, a section of the boundary retains the existing area code and a section is given a new area code. Seven-digit dialing is retained but the portion of the area with the new area code has to change all of their contact information to accommodate the change. With the overlay, each number that is added after implementation would receive the new area code. In this method, seven digit dialing would be eliminated and all calls would require the use of 10 digit dialing.

“We all agree that neither choice is good and it’s going to cause disruption whichever way we go,” said Supervisor Ken Yeager, Chair of the Board’s Finance and Government Operations Committee. “But the overlay is probably the least disruptive option we have.”

“Any city would be in favor of the split option if they knew they can keep the 408 area code,” said Supervisor Mike Wasserman, Chair of the Board’s Housing, Land, Environment and Transportation Committee. “But the decision is with the Public Utilities Commission and since there are no guarantees, from a financial and pragmatic approach, the overlay option is the best available choice.”

“I think the overlay is a lousy idea,” said Supervisor Liz Kniss, the dissenting vote. “The overlay might be politically expedient, but at least with the split you have a clue of where you are calling or where you are receiving the call from.”

The California Public Utilities Commission indicated that, since 2006, there have been six new area
codes introduced in California, and overlay was implemented in five out of the six cases.

County Staff recommendation indicated that the California Public Utilities Commission might be leaning for the overlay method, after meetings between the Commission staff and the Telecommunications industry representatives and evaluation of the industry trend regarding how the last six new area codes were implemented. Local businesses represented by the San Jose\Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce, the Coalition of Chambers, the Gilroy Chamber and the Morgan Hill Chamber of Commerce are also in favor of the overlay method when implementing the new area code. Of all the Chambers of Commerce and Cities contacted by the County, only the City of Los Gatos recommends the geographic split and only if they could retain the 408 area code.

Area Code Switch options

Overlays - Overlays designate more than one area code for a particular geographical region. Overlays will not require consumers with existing telephone numbers to change their area code. Consumers who want new telephone numbers may receive telephone numbers with the new area code. Consumers may be assigned a different area code for telephone numbers within the same residence or business location. Adjoining houses, buildings, etc. may also have different area codes even though they are next to each other. An overlay requires consumers to use a new dialing procedure whereby the area code must be dialed for all calls. Historically, dialing a different area code indicated that call was outside of the local calling area, and “1” would be dialed before the area code. That won’t be the case with 10-digit dialing. Consumers may need to revise stationery, business cards, advertising materials, etc. regardless of the area code if the area code was not already identified on them. Consumers may need to reprogram their automatic dialing equipment or other types of equipment that are programmed with only a 7-digit number to ensure that can handle the new dialing procedure.

Geographic Split - Splits designate a single area code for each geographical region. The split will require an area code change for approximately one-half of the rate centers within a geographical region in a two-way split. Consumers may have a different area code for their residence compared to their cell phone or business telephone numbers, depending on the geographic location of the rate center associated with the telephone number.

In Geographic splits phone users maintain 7-digit dialing within a geographical region and they do not
have to dial the area code when making calls to and/or from telephone numbers with the same area code. Consumers receiving the new area code will need to change stationery, business cards, advertising, etc. Consumers may need to notify others of the new area code, if their area code changed. Manual or over-the-air reprogramming of cell phones may be needed too.

Media Contact: Gwendolyn Mitchell/Marina Hinestrosa, Office of Public Affairs, (408) 299-5119
Posted: May 24, 2011