The California Public Utilities Commission should scrap its plans for an overlay area code in the Inland Empire and just create a new area code.
If not, residents will need to dial 11 digits to make a call instead of seven.
This is not an easy call. It means that many of us will get a new phone number, but that seems like less of an inconvenience than dialing another four digits every time we make a call.
The commission decided a year ago to overlay the new 840 area code atop the 909 area code, which was created in 1992 when the 714 area code became overloaded. The 840 will become California’s 36th area code under the North American Numbering Plan (NANP) — more than any other state.
When the 840 area code goes into effect next year, 24 of California’s geographic regions will have overlays. Only 12 regions will be able to dial only seven digits to make a call.
There are 317 geographic area codes in the United States. Each three-digit area code can accommodate nearly 8 million numbers.
For now, we’re in a “permissive” period, meaning we can get away with just seven digits, but we’re encouraged to dial the 11 numbers. By the end of January, the 11 numbers will be mandatory.
According to a letter from the NANP administrator, the 909 is the worst all-purpose area code for “pulse dialers,” referring to the long spin of a rotary phone. Fortunately, few of us still use that antiquated technology. The worst is the 900 area code, which is for pay-for-service numbers.
With mobile phones and push-button phones, familiar numbers can be automatic. And more and more of us use email and social media to communicate. But in many businesses, such as newspaper reporting, a phone call remains essential.
We urge the commission to go back to the drawing board.