Central Office Code Reclamation and Extensions

Central Office Code Reclamation and Requests for Extensions (Download PDF)

SUMMARY This document explains the procedures to be followed for reclamation of central office codes (NXX or area codes) by the Commission and for carriers’ requests for extensions of time in which to activate codes.

INTRODUCTION Since the passage of the Telecommunications Act in 1996, opportunities have been created for new telephone companies to compete against existing companies for local telephone business. This newly competitive marketplace has created an unprecedented demand for NXX codes. Consequently, area codes are rapidly exhausting, in Maryland and nationwide. In recent years, the solution to this exhausting area code problem has been to establish new area codes. In 1991 Maryland’s single area code of 301 was geographically split into 301 and 410; in 1997 both 301 and 410 received overlays (240 and 443, respectively), making 31.2 million numbers available. In 2000, NeuStar requested that a second area code overlay be introduced for both the original 301 and 410 area codes. In March 2012, the original 410 area code received another overlay in the form of the 667 area code, resulting in five area codes operative in Maryland. Whereas new area codes make more numbers available for use, they also create a vast array of new problems for both consumers and telecommunications carriers. The increased use of area codes is also hastening the end of 10-digit dialing in North America. When the current supply of area codes is exhausted, 11-digit dialing will be required. The cost of adding this extra digit into the system is estimated to be between $50 and $150 billion and will be paid, ultimately, by the ratepayer. 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 by the states. 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.

BACKGROUND The FCC assigned the North American Numbering Plan Administrator (NANPA) the job of allocating NXX codes to requesting carriers. Until recently, after an NXX code was given to a carrier and made available for use, the carrier had six months to activate the code and submit verification to the NANPA that the code was activated. Formerly, this certification was satisfied when the carrier submitted a “Part 4” form to the NANPA. 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) which NXX codes should be reclaimed. On March 31, 2000, the FCC made a substantial change in numbering resource management by taking reclamation authority away from NANPA and delegating it to the states. Following 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 made 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. By FCC Order, the NANPA must 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. The FCC expressed the belief that state-level reclamation management may increase the effectiveness of state-level number conservation measures. If a state chooses not to exercise its delegated authority, reclamation management for that state cedes back to the FCC, which may require NANPA to perform reclamation management for that state in consultation with the FCC.
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