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PA Bulletin, Doc. No. 01-1756


Relief Plan for the 717 NPA; P-00961071F0003

[31 Pa.B. 5422]

   Public Meeting held
August 30, 2001

   Commissioners Present: Glen R. Thomas, Chairperson; Robert K. Bloom, Vice Chairperson; Aaron Wilson, Jr.; Terrance J. Fitzpatrick


By the Commission:


   On May 29, 2001, the North American Numbering Plan Administrator NeuStar, Inc. (NANPA), in its role as the neutral third party NPA Relief Planner for Pennsylvania,1 acting on behalf of the Pennsylvania telecommunications industry (industry) filed a petition with the Commission requesting approval of its plan for the 717 Numbering Plan Area (NPA or area code). According to the petition, the industry reached a consensus2 to implement an all services distributed overlay for the geographic area covered by the 717 NPA which would create a new area code to service the area. As a result of the initial split of the 717 NPA in April of 1999 creating the 570 NPA3 , the 717 NPA now includes all or part of the following counties: Mifflin, Juniata, Perry, Dauphin, Lebanon, Berks, Fulton, Franklin, Cumberland, Adams, York, and Lancaster.

   The proliferation of new area codes is not the result of the unavailability of numbers for end-users. Rather, new area codes are needed when existing area codes exhaust their supply of NXX codes.4 When there are no more NXX codes available to assign to telephone companies, then new area codes need to be opened. The system for allocating numbering resources was designed in 1947 to accommodate a monopoly system. In recent years, however, a combination of several factors has created an unprecedented demand for NXX codes leading to the exhaust of existing area codes and the proliferation of new area codes to fill the void. Nationwide, only nine new area codes were activated between 1984 and 1994 while 32 new area codes were activated in 1997 alone. Between 1940 and 1990, Pennsylvania had a total of only four area codes (412, 814, 717 and 215). Today, Pennsylvania has nine active area codes (412, 724, 814, 717, 570, 610, 484, 215, and 267) and three additional area codes are ready to be activated in Western and Southeastern Pennsylvania when necessary (878, 835, and 445).

   According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which has plenary jurisdiction over numbering issues in the United States5 , the Commission must implement timely area code relief, i.e., add a new area code, when Pennsylvania's area codes are about to exhaust their supply of NXX codes.6 According to the June 2001 NPA Exhaust Analysis,7 the 717 NPA is projected to exhaust all available NXX codes during the second quarter 2003.

   The Commission, therefore, is now faced with the decision of deciding when a new area code must be added and in what form that area code should be added. Because we need input from consumers, the industry and other interested parties involved regarding this difficult decision, we will now direct that the consensus relief plan for the 717 NPA shall not be implemented at this time. Rather, the Commission will seek comments as outlined in Section III and a decision on this issue will be rendered at a later date. Further, while we are only seeking written comments at this time, this issue may be opened for future public input hearings.


I.  FCC Requirements Regarding Area Code Relief

   According to FCC regulations, new area codes can be introduced to relieve the shortage of NXX codes in an area code through the use of any of the following three methods.

   1.  A geographic area code split, which occurs when the geographic area served by an area code is split into two or more geographical parts;

   2.  An area code boundary realignment, which occurs when the boundary lines between two adjacent area codes are shifted to allow the transfer of some numbers from one area code to the other;

   3.  An area code overlay, which occurs when a new area code is introduced to serve the same geographic area as an existing area code. 47 CFR 52.19(c)(1)--(3).

   Although the NANPA notifies the industry when an area code needs relief planning and conducts the relief planning meeting, it is a neutral third party that does not express an opinion on any proposed relief alternative. Additionally, the industry is encouraged to participate in the creation of the relief alternatives and is free to present any plans during the relief planning meeting.

II.  Relief Planning for the 717 NPA and the Industry's Consensus to Recommend Implementation of an Overlay

A.  The Relief Planning Meeting for the 717 NPA

   On February 20, 2001, NANPA notified the industry that it needed to meet to discuss relief alternatives for the 717 NPA. A meeting was convened on April 18, 2001 and members from various ILECs, CLECs, wireless companies, the Office of Consumer Advocate, and the Commission staff were present. During this meeting, the NANPA proposed the following five relief alternatives to alleviate the situation in the 717 NPA. These alternatives are detailed more fully as follows:

   1.  Alternative #1--A geographic split with the split boundary line running along rate center boundaries in a north to south direction. The boundary line approximately tracks the Susquehanna River. Rate centers located on the western side include Liverpool, Duncannon, Mechanicsburg, Manchester and Brogue. Rate centers located on the eastern side include Millersburg, Harrisburg City Zone 1, Marietta, Columbia, and Rawlinsville. The western side of the split would have a projected NPA life of 15 years to exhaust and the eastern side of the split would have a projected NPA life of 6 years to exhaust.

   2.  Alternative #2--A geographic split with the split boundary line running along rate centers in an east to west direction dividing the existing NPA approximately in half. Rate centers located in the northern half would include Blain, Carlisle, Lewisberry and Harrisburg City Zones 1 and 2. Rate centers located in the southern half would include Shippensburg, Dillsburg, York and Lancaster. Each side of the split would have a projected NPA life of 10 years.

   3.  Alternative #3--A geographic split with the boundary line running along rate center boundaries in an east to west direction. Rate centers located on the northern side would include Blain, New Bloomfield, Mechanicsburg, Lewisberry, and Hershey. Rate centers located on the southern side would include Dry Run, Newville, Dillsburg, Manchester, and Elizabethtown. The northern side would have a projected NPA life of 11 years to exhaust and the southern side would have a projected NPA life of 9 years.

   4.  Alternative #4--A geographic split with the boundary line that would carve out a small area in the northeast portion of the 717 NPA. The small area would include the Harrisburg City Zone 1 rate center as well as the Hershey, Schaefferstown, Elizabethville and Millersburg rate centers. The projected NPA lifespan of the smaller area would be 14 years and the outlying area would have a projected NPA life of 7 years.

   5.  Alternative #5--An all services distributed overlay with a new NPA assigned to the same geographic area as the existing 717 NPA. The projected NPA life span of this entire area would be 10 years.

   After discussion of these five alternatives, the industry reached a consensus to adopt an all services distributed overlay as the form of relief for the 717 NPA. Consistent with FCC regulations, implementation of this overlay would require the institution of a 10-digit dialing plan both within and between the existing NPA and the overlay NPA.8

B.  Industry's Current Consensus to Recommend an Overlay

   After discussing the five relief alternatives presented at the April 18, 2001 meeting, the industry decided to recommend implementation of the all services distributed overlay (Alternative #5). The industry eliminated the geographic splits from consideration because they divide communities of interest. Alternatives #2 and #3 would split the community of Harrisburg. In considering Alternatives #2 and #3, the industry noted that many customers may live and work in separate areas of Harrisburg covered by separate NPAs, thereby increasing the frequency of 10-digit dialing necessitated by inter-NPA calls. The industry stated that customers on one side of the split would need to change their telephone numbers thereby creating undue hardship and customer confusion. The industry further rejected Alternatives #1 and #4 because the projected lives of the resulting NPAs would be uneven.

   The industry reached a consensus to recommend Alternative #5 as the form of relief for the 717 NPA for several reasons. First, an overlay does not require customers to change their telephone numbers or split communities of interest. Second, the industry also noted that 10-digit dialing is becoming more prevalent Nationwide and overlays, with 10-digit dialing, have been implemented in southeastern and western Pennsylvania. Finally, the industry stated that the existence of local number portability lessens the impact upon carriers having NXX codes in the new area code.

III.  Comments Sought By the Commission

   The FCC has adamantly maintained that state commissions cannot engage in number conservation measures to the exclusion of, or as a substitute for, timely area code relief.9 Therefore, when Pennsylvania's area codes are about to exhaust their supply of NXX codes, the Commission must implement timely area code relief, i.e., add a new area code. When faced with the need to implement new area codes, the Commission must decide two very important issues. First, the Commission must determine when the new area code needs to be implemented. Second, the Commission must decide how to implement the new area code (i.e., a geographic split or an overlay). Therefore, we are seeking comments from interested parties regarding when the 717 NPA will exhaust and what form of area code relief should be implemented upon exhaust.

A.  Projected Exhaust Date for the 717 NPA

   According to the FCC, state commissions must add new area codes when the existing area codes exhaust or are about to exhaust all their NXX codes. Consequently, the critical element for deciding when to add new area codes is to know when the area code will exhaust all of its NXX codes. State commissions have no involvement in predicting or projecting the exhaust dates for area codes. The FCC has delegated this responsibility to the NANPA.

   The NANPA projects exhaust dates for area codes by averaging the past rate of assignment of NXX codes and using that to estimate the future rate at which NXX codes will be assigned. Because these variables are so fluid, projecting accurate exhaust dates is difficult. For example, on May 4, 2000 the industry was advised by the NANPA that relief planning for the 717 NPA needed to begin as the 717 NPA was expected to exhaust during the second quarter 2001. However, when the industry convened to discuss relief alternatives, the assignment rate of NXX codes in the 717 NPA had tapered off and the new projected exhaust date was fourth quarter 2003. Consequently, the industry decided not to discuss relief for the 717 NPA at that time. However, between the time of the industry meeting on April 18, 2001 and the filing of the consensus relief plan with the Commission, the projected exhaust date for the 717 NPA had been revised again. Now, the current projected exhaust date for the 717 NPA is second quarter 2003.

   With constantly changing information such as this, the Commission has a difficult time trying to determine when Pennsylvania's area codes will exhaust thereby requiring the addition of new area codes to ensure that all telecommunications carriers have numbering resources. Consequently, we have identified the following factors that may impact the timeframe for when area code relief must be implemented to relieve the 717 NPA and we would like comments from interested parties on these factors.

1.  How much time is needed to implement area code relief?

   The current overlay relief plan proposed by the industry allows 19 months for full implementation of the new NPA. According to this timeline, 6 months are devoted to network preparation, 12 months are devoted to ''permissive'' 10-digit dialing, and 1 month is devoted to ''mandatory'' 10-digit dialing. The Commission's experience with area code overlays is that they can be fully implemented within 6 months. Consequently, the Commission questions whether a 19-month timeline would really be necessary for implementation of an overlay for the 717 NPA.

   Also, in Southeastern Pennsylvania (610/484 and 215/267), the Commission has ordered that the additional overlays (835 over 610/484 and 445 over 215/267) not be implemented until 3 months prior to total exhaust of the underlying NPAs. Is a similar situation possible for the 717 NPA? More specifically, could the industry undertake to implement an overlay for the 717 NPA but not actually activate that new overlay NPA until total exhaust of the 717 NPA? Could the requirement of 10-digit dialing be suspended until the new overlay NPA were fully activated?

   We also seek comment on the following questions regarding implementation of a split to relieve the 717 NPA. What is the shortest amount of time this type of relief can be implemented? Would a 6-month timeframe for implementation of a split be feasible? What aspect of implementing a split is the most significant for the industry and how long does this take to complete?

2.  What impact will the current number conservation measures in the 717 NPA have on its projected exhaust date?

   Even though the FCC continues to maintain that state commissions cannot use number conservation measures to avoid implementing timely area code relief, the Commission obtained the authority to implement various number conservation measures in Pennsylvania's area codes in July 2000. Thus, in the 717 NPA, the Commission ordered two number conservation measures: 1) NXX code reclamation10 and 2) voluntary pooling which will be implemented on March 14, 2002.11 Consequently, the Commission seeks comment on whether NXX code reclamation12 and voluntary pooling significantly lengthen the life span of the 717 NPA?

3.  How do Federal rules regarding sequential number assignment and utilization thresholds impact the life of the 717 NPA?

   Pursuant to Federal rules effective July 17, 2000, all service providers are required to assign all available telephone numbers within an opened thousands-block before assigning telephone numbers from an uncontaminated thousands-block. 47 CFR 52.15(j)(1). This requirement applies to a service provider's existing numbering resources as well as to any new numbering resources it obtains in the future. Also, pursuant to Federal rules effective May 8, 2001, all carriers requesting growth codes in a particular rate center need to show that they have achieved a 60% utilization threshold in the codes they already have in that rate center. 47 CFR 52.15(h). On June 30, 2002 the utilization threshold will increase by 5% and annually thereafter until it reaches 75%.

   The Commission seeks comment on how these two number assignment restrictions might impact the exhaust date for the 717 NPA. For example, because of the sequential numbering assignment requirements, are more thousands-blocks available for voluntary pooling in the 717 NPA thereby alleviating the need to assign full NXX codes? Also, will the fact that a utilization threshold is in place slow the need for the assignment of more NXX codes from the 717 NPA?

4.  Can any of the unavailable NXX codes in the 717 NPA be made available for assignment to carriers and how would this impact the NPA's exhaust date?

   There are approximately 29 NXX codes in the 717 NPA that are marked as ''unavailable for assignment.'' According to the Commission's understanding, these NXX codes are marked as unavailable by the industry for a variety of reasons. Since area code exhaust is determined by the unavailability of NXX codes for assignment to carriers, the Commission opines that the release of a significant number of NXX codes from unavailable status may help lengthen the life of the 717 NPA. Therefore, the Commission seeks comments on whether any of these NXX codes can be released and, if so, how many. Further, if there are NXX codes that need to remain unavailable, the Commission seeks specific information regarding why these NXX codes cannot be released. Finally, the Commission seeks comment on how the release of a significant number of these unavailable NXX codes would impact the life of the 717 NPA.

B.  Form of Area Code Relief for the 717 NPA

   Once it is determined when area code relief must be implemented, state commissions are faced with the task of deciding what form that relief should take. Pennsylvania has experienced both area code splits and overlays. There have been a total of five overlays since 1999 (484 and 267 have been implemented and 878, 835, and 445 are ready to be activated). Prior to 1999, three geographic splits have been implemented (610, 570, and 724).

   The Commission is seeking comments on the five relief alternatives submitted by the NANPA and is open to suggestions regarding any other potential alternatives for providing relief to the 717 NPA. More specifically, the Commission is interested in the specific circumstances of the 717 NPA and whether these circumstances favor the implementation of one form of relief over the other.

1.  What form of area code relief would create longer lasting NPAs for the 717 region?

   Historically, when new area codes were created in Pennsylvania to relieve existing area codes, the projected life of these new area codes was at least 5 years. Despite this, area code relief planning began within a year or two after implementation of the underlying relief plan in all cases. The two overlays in Southeastern Pennsylvania (267 over 215 and 484 over 610) lasted for only 4 months before the NANPA informed the Commission that relief would again be needed. The split of 412 creating 724 in the Pittsburgh area lasted 27 months until relief planning began again. The split in Philadelphia of 215 (creating 610) lasted 18 months until relief planning was needed. The split in Central Pennsylvania (717 creating 570) lasted 11 months before relief planning was needed for the new 570 NPA and about 24 months until relief planning began for the old 717 NPA. Based on this experience, the Commission is seeking comments from interested parties regarding what type of area code relief would provide the most long lasting benefit for consumers in the 717 region.

2.  What form of area code relief is the least disruptive to consumers?

   Pennsylvania has had experiences throughout the State with both splits and overlays. There are benefits and disadvantages to either method. With the imposition of an overlay, existing land-based telephone customers are not likely to have to change telephone numbers. Therefore, customers will not need to change their advertising and stationery. However, the FCC requires that 10 digits be used to dial all numbers in the overlaid area when an overlay is implemented. New NXX numbers from the new area code are assigned to carriers that do not have numbers available in a given rate center. Therefore, the first three digits of a 10-digit telephone number around the corner or down the block might be from the new area code. Eventually, a single customer might have two different area codes for telephone lines serving his or her home or place of business, if the existing carrier has run out of numbers in an NXX assigned to the old area code.

   Implementation of a geographic split involves dividing an existing area code into two or more parts, with one part retaining the old area code and other(s) receiving a new area code(s). Callers are presently able to continue using 7-digit dialing for calls made within the area code boundaries. Customers in the area retaining the old area code are minimally impacted. Customers in the new area code, however, must change their area codes. Businesses must revise their stationery and their advertising. Commercial customers may not be able to retain ''vanity numbers,''13 upon which they have spent advertising dollars. Callers, particularly at the border of the old and new area codes are temporarily inconvenienced. They often must dial 11 digits to make calls that were previously 7-digit numbers. Although local calling areas actually have not changed, and calls that were local before the area code split remain local calls, even if they cross into the new area code, people are initially disconcerted and distrusting of the concept of an 11-digit local call. Indeed, local calling areas do not change no matter which method of area code relief is implemented.

   While we realize that either method is inconvenient to consumers, we are seeking comment on the less in convenient of the two. For example, do the specific circumstances in the 717 NPA make either a split or an overlay a better alternative? Is there a preferred form of relief for residential consumers? Is there a preferred form of relief for business consumers? Does the fact that the 717 NPA was split in April of 1999, make either the split or overlay a better alternative now? If a split is the preferred method, where should the boundary line be drawn and which side of that boundary line should receive the new area code?


   The policy of the Commission is to ensure that numbering resources, including area code relief planning, are made available on an equitable, efficient and timely basis in Pennsylvania while ensuring that the impact of proliferating new area codes on consumers is as minimal as possible; Therefore,

It Is Ordered:

   1.  That the industry consensus recommendation for an all services distributed overlay relief plan for the 717 NPA is denied.

   2.  That comments, as requested by this Order, be filed with the Commission no later than 30 days after this Order is published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin. Reply comments may be filed within 20 days after the close of the comment period.

   3.  That 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 Wayne Milby and Sandra Boclair of the NANPA.

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


[Pa.B. Doc. No. 01-1756. Filed for public inspection September 21, 2001, 9:00 a.m.]


1 The NANPA is the entity that allocates numbering resources and monitors the viability of area codes to determine when all of the numbers available in the area code are nearing exhaust. The Industry Numbering Committee Guidelines provide that when an area code is nearing exhaust, the NANPA, which then becomes the NPA Relief Planner, convenes a meeting of the industry to discuss relief alternatives. NPA Code Relief Planning & Notification Guidelines, INC97-0404-016, reissued Nov. 8, 1999, at § 5.5. If the industry reaches a consensus, then its consensus plan is filed with the Commission and the Commission has an opportunity to take action at that point. NPA Code Relief Planning & Notification Guidelines, INC97-0404-016, reissued Nov. 8, 1999, at § 5.6.

2 A consensus is established when substantial agreement has been reached. Substantial agreement means more than a simple majority, but not necessarily unanimity. CLC Principles and Procedures, May 1998, at § 6.8.8.

3 Petition of NPA Relief Coordinator Re: 717 Area Code Relief Plan, Docket No. P-00961071 (Order entered May 21, 1998).

4 Telephone numbers consist of 10 digits. The first three digits make up the area code, and the second three digits make up the NXX code. Each NXX code contains 10,000 numbers and each area code contains approximately 792 NXX codes.

5 47 U.S.C. § 251(e)(1).

6 See In the Matter of Petition for Declaratory Ruling and Request for Expedited Action on the July 15, 1997 Order of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission Regarding Area Codes 412, 610, 215, 717; Implementation of the Local Competition Provisions of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, Memorandum Opinion and Order and Order on Reconsideration, 13 FCC Rcd 190029 (1998).

7 Federal rules that went into effect on July 17, 2000 require all carriers to report to the NANPA their historical and forecast utilization data. 47 CFR 52.15(f). These reports are made semi-annually and are referred to as the ''NRUF Reports.'' Using this data along with the rate of assignment of NXX codes in the NPA, the NANPA predicts the exhaust date for all NPAs in its NPA Exhaust Analysis. These reports can be found at

8 47 CFR 52.19(c)(3)(ii).

9 In the Matter of Numbering Resource Optimization, CC Docket Nos. 99-200, 96-98, NSD File No. L-99-101 (2000).

10 On August 22, 2000, the Commission established its process for reclaiming NXX codes from all Pennsylvania's area codes. NXX code reclamation involves the return of unused NXX codes to the NANPA. According to FCC rules, within six months of receiving an NXX code, the carrier must assign at least one number to an end user or else the entire NXX code must be returned to the NANPA. By reclaiming NXX codes that are not in use, the life of an NPA is prolonged since the reclaimed codes are added to the total inventory of assignable NXX codes in the NPA. See Implementation of Number Conservation Measures Granted to Pennsylvania by the Federal Communications Commission in its Order released March 31, 2000--NXX Code Reclamation, Docket No. M-00001373 (Order entered August 22, 2000), 30 Pa. B. 4701 (September 2, 2000).

11 The Commission adopted an order on August 9, 2001 directing that voluntary pooling would commence in the 717 NPA on March 14, 2002. Pooling is a number conservation measure that allows participating carriers to share spare numbering resources in groups of 1,000. Twelve carriers with NXX codes in the 717 area code have agreed to participate in this pooling trial. See Implementation of Accelerated Voluntary Thousands-Block Pooling in the 570 and 717 Area Codes, Docket No. M-00001427 (Order entered August 9, 2001).

12 A total of 18 NXX codes were returned in the 717 NPA between January 2001 and June 2001. More information can be found at

13 For example, a bookstore with the number 234-BOOK, or a truck-driving school with the number TRUCKER.

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