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Ten Digit Dialing Mandatory July 26:

All telephone callers in the 310 area code must dial 1 plus the area code (including the 310 area code) plus the seven-digit number in order to make any call, effective Wednesday, July 26, 2006.  Cell phone users and persons with speed-dialers, take note: You will have to re-program your devices so that the 310 area code is dialed, just as you would for any other area code.

This re-programming can be done immediately, since 310-to-310 ten-digit dialing has been permissible since December 31, 2005.  It becomes mandatory on Wednesday, July 26.

This change results from the creation of the new 424 area code as an overlay on the 310 service area.  Previously, at least in California, when telephone numbers in a given area code were nearing exhaustion, the area code was split and a new area code was assigned to a geographic portion of the old area.  Thus, the 310 area code was created in late 1991 to relieve number exhaustion in the 213 area code, and the 310 area was later split in January 1997, forming a separate 562 area code (Long Beach), again to replenish number supplies.

But this time, as the 310 area code began running out of numbers (arguably, see below), the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) approved the creation of a new overlay area code rather than a geographic split.  So all 310 telephone numbers will remain the same and keep the 310 area code designation, and new numbers within the same geographic area (the Westside and South Bay areas of Los Angeles County and a small portion of Ventura County) will be assigned 424 area code numbers beginning August 26, 2006.  Thus, different phone lines within the same home or office could have different area codes.

“The price of a call, coverage area or other rates and services will not change due to the overlay,” says the CPUC.  “What is a local call now will remain a local call regardless of the number of digits dialed.  You can still dial just three digits to reach 911, as well as 211, 311, 411, 511, 611 and 711.”

If you fail to dial the 310 area code from a 310 phone after the new requirement becomes effective July 26, “your call will not be completed, and a recording will instruct you to hang up and dial again,” according to the CPUC.  That state commission cautions: “In addition to changing your dialing procedure, all services, automatic dialing equipment or other types of equipment that are programmed with a 7-digit number will need to be reprogrammed to use the new dialing procedure.  Some examples are life safety systems, fax machines, Internet dial-up numbers, alarm and security systems, gates, speed dialers, call forwarding settings, voicemail services and similar functions.”

The overlay area code plan for the 310 area was approved by the CPUC in August 2005.  The decision was not without controversy.  Earlier proposals to break up the 310 area code – whether by geographic split or overlay – raised questions as to whether there was really a shortage of numbers.  Robert Sheer, writing in the Los Angeles Times on July 15, 1999, said that the CPUC “has requested permission from the FCC in Washington D.C. to grant the state the power to compel the 200-odd phone companies operating in California to report on what percentage of the numbers assigned to them are actually in use, as well as to return unused ones for redistribution in smaller, more efficient quantities.”

The CPUC announced in August 2005 that it made its decision not simply because seven digit numbers were being exhausted in toto, but because the allocation of available numbers among telephone companies made a new area code necessary in order to ensure that consumers continue to have access to numbers from their carrier of choice.  In approving the overlay, the CPUC rescinded its previously adopted plan (September 2000) for a geographic split of the 310 area code.

Some persons have argued, throughout the debate, for a technologically specific overlay, which would assign a unique area code to beepers, ATM and gas station machines that are thought to constitute much of the pressure for new numbers.

Commission President Michael R. Peevey said at the time of the August 25, 2005 general overlay approval, “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.  The overlay approved today is the first time this form of area code relief has been used in California and we made this decision after vigorous debate over its merit versus a geographic split.”

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