Three One Uh-Oh

They’re at it again: telecom companies are lobbying for a new area code overlay – a slight change from their previous efforts to split the 310. Companies say the overlay wouldn’t occur “until it is triggered when number ‘exhaust can no longer be avoided.'”

Doesn’t take a lit major to appreciate that fun use of the passive voice.

Local electeds sent a letter urging public hearings before the 424 blankets 310 land. The Public Utilities Commission – the agency tasked with making the call on such things – is a particularly bothersome kind of bureaucratic beast. Don’t bet on it sticking up for those of us south of Imperial Highway.

Indeed, while carriers were careful to paint their proposal as beneficial to consumers, an excerpt in their filing that quotes the Federal Communications Commission makes clear who the carriers are really trying to aid — themselves.

“Unavailability of numbers, or an inefficient allocation of available numbers, could prevent or discourage consumers from taking new services,” the filing reads. “Thus, the timely implementation of area code relief is essential if new providers are to enter and new services are to appear in the telecommunications marketplace.”

But Knabe, Harman and Gordon counter that the current system for counting number inventories is “rife with inconsistency and manipulation, and provides inadequate consumer protections.”

“Consumers neither have confidence in what the carriers represent nor do they have adequate means to evaluate carrier representations,” the trio wrote. “Without an objective means of defining the inventories carriers may maintain and established guidelines for consistent inventory management, there can be no agreement on the ‘trigger’ itself.”

Having worked for state government, I know full well the power of big utilities (no pun intended). But it seems like this kind of crap could be legislated away, doesn’t it? They aren’t out of numbers – even with our massive population and the tribble-like propagation of cell phones.

And while it’s true that, for many, the cell phone is the primary (if not only) number – and with cell phones area codes and numbers generally are obsolete since we’re usually calling “Bob A.” and not “213-555-5555” – someday, we might have enough money to own a home here and actually want a landline.

And it’s a status thing. You know it is.

Save the 310!

4 thoughts on “Three One Uh-Oh”

  1. There’s actually nothing new about the overlay plan. In fact, several years ago the CPUC actually approved the 424 overlay for the 310 and set a timeline. That was eventually blocked when it became clear that everything the PUC was telling us about number usage was, in fact, wrong. Turns out that a huge amount of the numbers that have been assigned to the telecoms are actually unused, that they are simply hoarding numbers to maintain a competitive edge against their rivals. The whole issue comes down to the idea that the telecoms feel their rights will somehow be violated if cells, faxes and ATMs are given a separate area code of their own. This is an alternative that has worked fine in other parts of the country, but so far the telecoms have succeeded in fighting the idea here on the grounds that having to use a separate area code would somehow be descriminatory. That said, I’ve never bought the idea that changing the area code would be such a tremendous burden on users — these people who cry that they’re emotionally tied to their area code just crack me up. Still, we shouldn’t have to make changes just because some private firm wants to push us around. Screw ’em.

  2. “Unavailability of numbers, or an inefficient allocation of available numbers, could prevent or discourage consumers from taking new services”

    Can someone explain this? It sounds like they’re saying they need more phone numbers so more people will get Caller ID or something?

  3. Maybe it was a status thing once upon a time, but does anyone really care anymore? I don’t have a landline, and my cell phone has a 718 area code, from when I used to live in Brooklyn. Within a few years, it seems like so many people will have moved around (and kept their numbers) that geographic connotations will be irrelevant.

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