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St. Louis region to gain new area code via split

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The Missouri Public Service Commission has determined that a geographic split and a new area code should be used to alleviate the exhaustion of available telephone numbers in the current 314 area code. Exhaustion is due to occur in the fourth quarter of 1999, according to a news release from the PSC.

At the same time, the commission has opened a new case to evaluate and implement number conservation measures designed to lengthen the time before number exhaustion occurs again in the St. Louis area.

"The commission has placed this case on an expedited schedule in order that we may quickly evaluate and then implement various number conservation measures to extend the life of those two area codes," said PSC Chair Sheila Lumpe, in the release.

Regarding a geographic split for the current 314 area code, the commission reached its decision based on the recommendations of the Office of the Public Counsel and those citizens who attended local public hearings and/or wrote letters on the issue. The commission found that evidence concerning customer impacts clearly and unequivocally tipped the scale in favor or a geographic split vs. an overlay. An overlay had been recommended by several parties in this case.

At local public hearings, customers stated it would be simpler and more convenient to continue to dial seven digits for local calling within their own area code than to dial 10 digits on every call within both area codes, the release stated.

The commission noted in its decision, "The customers have made their assessment of these issues clear on the record before the commission, and the commission therefore finds that, from the standpoint of customer impacts, a geographic split is preferable to an all-services overlay at this time."

In its decision, the commission has determined that the St. Louis principal zone, as well as the exchanges of Spanish Lake, Florissant, Hazelwood, Bridgeton, Ferguson, Riverview, Overland, Creve Coeur, Ladue, Webster Groves, Kirkwood, Sappington, Mehlville and Oakville will retain the 314 area code as proposed by the Office of the Public Counsel.

A new, yet to be determined, area code will be issued for all of the other exchanges currently in the 314 area code (such as St. Charles, Wentzville, Jonesburg, Washington, Union, DeSoto and Festus). The new area code assignment will be made by Lockheed Martin, administrator of the North American Numbering Plan.

A proposed three-way geographic split was rejected by the commission because it would result in such small area codes that the benefits of a geographic split would be significantly reduced, the release stated.

The primary advantage with a geographic split is that it retains seven-digit local calling, it retains a geographic identity associated with the unique area code, and it minimizes or eliminates claims of competitive disadvantage associated with overlays, the PSC stated.

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