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PA Bulletin, Doc. No. 00-1539



Implementation of Number Conservation Measures Granted to Pennsylvania by the Federal Communications Commission in its Order released March 31, 2000--NXX Code Reclamation; M-00001373

Commissioners Present: John M. Quain, Chairman; Robert K. Bloom, Vice Chairman; Nora Mead Brownell; Aaron Wilson, Jr.; Terrance J. Fitzpatrick

[30 Pa.B. 4701]

Public Meeting held
August 17, 2000


By the Commission:


   Both Federal and State statutes have created the opportunity for new telephone companies to compete against existing companies for local telephone business.1 These statutes were designed to foster competition in the telecommunications marketplace with the hope of ultimately lowering prices and improving choices for consumers. Unfortunately, however, the proliferation of fax machines, computer modems, cellular phones and compe- titive carriers in the local service market have created an unprecedented demand for NXX codes 2 and the current antiquated telephone network is unable to deal with this heightened demand. Consequently, area codes are rapidly exhausting in this Commonwealth and nationwide. Without area codes, there are no numbers available for carriers to provide telecommunications service to their customers. In recent years, the solution to this exhausting area code problem has been to establish new area codes.3 Unfortunately, however, while new area codes make more numbers available for use, they also create a vast array of new problems for both consumers and telecommunications carriers.4

   State and Federal regulators, as well as the telecommunications industry, have been working on addressing this extremely complex numbering problem for several years. Efforts have focused both on developing methods of allocating numbers more efficiently and on developing methods for increasing carriers' accountability for the numbering resources they obtain. These efforts have resulted in orders issued by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) establishing number conservation measures to be implemented on the state 5 and national levels.

   Effective July 17, 2000, the FCC established a national framework (FCC Numbering Order) for thousand-block pooling and other number conservation measures.6 Pending implementation of this nationally mandated thousand-block pooling and the other measures set forth in the FCC Numbering Order, state commissions were given the authority to reclaim NXX codes that have not been activated within six months. This grant of authority marks a significant change in the role state commissions can play in ensuring that numbering resources are available to all carriers without the constant need to keep implementing new but unnecessary area codes.

   The Commission believes that code reclamation is one of several number conservation methods that will help to alleviate the current numbering crisis in Pennsylvania and ensure the availability of Pennsylvania NXX codes to all carriers. Consequently, the Commission has decided to implement the NXX code reclamation process discussed more fully in the following paragraphs.


   The job of allocating NXX codes has been delegated by the FCC to the North American Numbering Plan Administrator (NANPA). Reclamation of codes involves the return of NXX codes to the NANPA when they have not been activated within the required timeframe.7 As noted by the FCC in its order, reclamation is one of the quickest and easiest number conservation measures to implement. By reclaiming NXX codes that are not in use, the life of an area code is prolonged since the reclaimed codes are added to the total inventory of assignable NXX codes in the Numbering Plan Areas.

   All requests for NXX codes are made directly to the NANPA. After an NXX code is given to a carrier and made available for use 8 , the carrier then has 6 months to activate the code and submit verification to the NANPA that the code is activated.9 This verification is satisfied when the carrier submits a ''Part 4'' form to the NANPA. Prior to the FCC Numbering Order, state commissions played no role in the process of code reclamation. After giving carriers several opportunities to submit their Part 4 form verifications or request an extension of time within which to activate their NXX code, the NANPA would recommend to the Industry Numbering Committee (INC) 10 which NXX codes should be reclaimed. The INC then made a final decision regarding whether or not the codes should be reclaimed.

   The FCC Numbering Order redesigned this process and gave state commissions the ability to take an active role in the reclamation process. Under this grant of authority from the FCC, state commissions can investigate and determine whether code holders have activated NXX codes within six months of them being available for use by the carrier. Further, state commissions may request proof from all code holders that NXX codes have been activated and assignment of the numbers has commenced. State commissions are required to accord the code holder an opportunity to explain the circumstances causing any delay in activating NXX codes in a timely manner. The FCC directed the NANPA to abide by the state commission's determination to reclaim an NXX code if the state commission is satisfied that the code holder has not activated the code within the time specified in the FCC Numbering Order.

   As a result of this new ability for state involvement in the reclamation process, the Commission and the NANPA have developed the following procedure that will now be implemented. The NANPA will accept Part 4 forms from the carrier as verification of NXX code activation 11 during the 6-month time frame to activate the NXX code. As permitted by the FCC, the Commission reserves the right to investigate and determine whether code holders have activated NXX codes even if a Part 4 form has been submitted to the NANPA. Upon the expiration of that 6-month period, the NANPA will notify the delinquent carrier by facsimile that its Part 4 form is due. The carrier will then have 14 days to respond to this request. Any request for an extension of time and any failure to respond to the NANPA will be referred to the Commission. Each month the NANPA will send to the Commission a report regarding these NXX codes that have not been activated so that the Commission can decide whether or not their Pennsylvania NXX codes should be reclaimed.

   The Commission has determined that this monthly report will be sent directly to the Commission's Bureau of Fixed Utility Services which will then send a Secretarial letter to the affected carrier by certified mail. This Secretarial letter will give the carrier a second opportunity to explain why its Pennsylvania NXX codes have not been activated. The carrier will have 10 days from the date of the letter to send its written response to the Commission. In its response, the carrier will be required to verify that the NXX code contains numbers that have been assigned and must provide proof regarding this assertion. In the alternative, the carrier can use its response as an opportunity to explain any circumstance causing the delay in assigning the numbers and a request that it be granted an extension of time within which to activate the NXX code.

   The Commission will then review the responses it receives following this Secretarial letter and make a determination at public meeting regarding whether or not the NXX codes should be reclaimed. The carrier will be sent notice of the Commission's decision informing it that the Commission intends to pursue one of the three courses of action. First, the Commission may notify the carrier that reclamation of a particular NXX code is not warranted; consequently, no further action will be taken. Second, the Commission may notify the carrier it has been granted an extension of time within which to activate the NXX code; in this situation, the carrier will be expected to send verification to the Commission when the NXX code is activated and, once that is received, the Commission will not pursue any further action. Third, the Commission may notify the carrier that NXX code reclamation is necessary.

   Following this notice to the carrier, the Commission's Bureau of Fixed Utility Services will then inform the NANPA regarding its decision with respect to each NXX code. The NANPA will be informed on a monthly basis regarding the status of the Commission's investigation of the Pennsylvania NXX codes identified by the NANPA as not being activated within the 6 month timeframe.


   Because the Commission is concerned about the current availability and usage of numbering resources and the impact of proliferating new area codes on consumers as well as telecommunications carriers, the Commission intends to exercise its newly granted authority to institute code reclamation. By making more numbers available through the reclamation of unused NXX codes, the Commission hopes to relieve some of the problems faced by both Pennsylvania consumers and carriers resulting from the proliferation of unnecessary area codes in the Commonwealth; Therefore,

It Is Ordered That:

   1.  The Commission will work with the NANPA to investigate and determine whether code holders have activated NXX codes within 6 months from the date they were available for use.

   2.  The Commission's Bureau of Fixed Utility Services is given the authority to implement the Commission's reclamation process as set forth in this order subject to final Commission review and approval.

   3.  A copy of this order shall be served on all jurisdictional telecommunications carriers, wireless carriers, the Office of Consumer Advocate, the Office of Small Business Advocate and North American Numbering Plan Administrator.

   4.  A copy of this order shall be published both in the Pennsylvania Bulletin and on the Commission's website.


[Pa.B. Doc. No. 00-1539. Filed for public inspection September 1, 2000, 9:00 a.m.]


1  See, The Communications Act of 1934, as amended by the Telecommunications Act of 1996, 47 U.S.C.A. § 251(e)(1), and Chapter 30 of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Code, 66 Pa.C.S. §§ 3001--3009.

2  NXX codes are the three digits following the area code in a 10-digit telephone number. Under the current infrastructure, telephone numbers are assigned to carriers in blocks of 10,000. Consequently, even if a carrier has only 10 customers, 10,000 numbers are still assigned in that area code causing 9,990 numbers to remain unused and unavailable. The result of this is that the amount of NXX codes in an area code exhaust so that a new area code needs to be instituted to generate new NXX codes, and hence, new numbers available for assignment.

3  In Pennsylvania between 1994 and 2000, the number of area codes increased from four to nine. By 2001, three more new area codes will be implemented and planning is underway to look at the need to institute additional new area codes in the future.

4  With the implementation of each new area code, telecommunications carriers must absorb the cost of equipment and technology upgrades to ensure service. Further, businesses must update their advertisements, reprint stationery, and reprogram machines such as fax machines, computer modems and other devices to recognize the new area code. Moreover, small businesses could lose business since customers might be unaware of the change or because of technical problems due to the change. Finally, costs to consumers include the necessity of reprogramming answering machines, alarm systems, personal fax machines, and the like. Further, consumers are responsible for notifying friends, family, and other people with whom they interact such as doctors, pharmacists, and financial institutions of their changing phone number.

5  On July 20, 2000, the FCC issued an order addressing Pennsylvania's December 23, 1999 Petition for Delegated Authority to Implement Number Conservation Measures. In the Matter of Numbering Resource Optimization, CC Doc. Nos. 99-200, 96-98, NSD File No. L-99-101. In this Order, the FCC granted Pennsylvania's request for the following authority: 1) to implement thousand block pooling, 2) to maintain rationing procedures for 6 months following implementation of NPA relief, 3) to implement NXX code sharing (after investigating it, reporting results to FCC, and determining that it is feasible and economically viable), and 4) to hear and address claims for an extraordinary need for numbering resources in an NPA subject to a rationing plan.

6  See Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking at CC Doc. No. 99-200, In the Matter of Numbering Resource Optimization.

7  Pursuant to the FCC Order, the Central Office Code Guidelines were modified to require code holders to return an NXX code if no numbers in the code are in service within 6 months after the effective published date of the NXX code. Central Office Code (NXX) Assignment Guidelines, INC 95-0407-009 (rev. June 19, 2000 effective July 16, 2000) at § 8.1. Further, the FCC Order requires that code reclamation procedures begin within 60 days after this 6-month deadline to ensure that NXX codes are returned in a timely manner.

8  According to the INC Guidelines, there is a 66-day waiting period after assignment of an NXX code to a carrier by the NANPA and the ability of the carrier to provide the code to an end user. Central Office Code (NXX) Assignment Guidelines, INC 95-0407-008 (rev. June 19, 2000 effective July 16, 2000) at § 6.1.2.

9  See Central Office Code (NXX) Assignment Guidelines, INC 95-0407-008 (rev. June 19, 2000 effective July 16, 2000) at § 6.3.3.

10  The Industry Numbering Committee is a committee of the Alliance For Telecommunications Industry Solutions (ATIS) which attempts to address and resolve industry-wide issues associated with the planning, administration, allocation, assignment and use of numbering resources. ATIS is a North American standards body concerned with the development of telecommunications standards, operating procedures and guidelines.

11  Under the FCC Order, numbers within an NXX code are properly assigned when they are either working in the Public Switched Telephone Network under an agreement with a specific end user or they are not yet working but have a service order pending to be working within 5 days.

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