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Phone call changes will occur

Sally J. Taylor

Phone call habits at Lake Tahoe will change drastically in the next couple years.

To explain the changes, representatives from Pacific Bell, GTE and the California/Nevada Area Code Administration spoke on Thursday to South Shore residents.

On Nov. 1, 1997, the California side of Lake Tahoe will receive a new area code.

Most of Northern California currently in the 916 area code region will be reassigned to the new 530 area code. The Sacramento area will keep 916, although the exact boundaries have not yet been decided.

At the same time, calls across the state line will require dialing the entire number: 1 plus the area code plus the phone number.

Callers will have six months to get used to the change. Until May 16, 1998, callers may dial the old or new way and still get through.

The cost of calls will not change, according to telephone company representatives.

“With an area code split, we’re not allowed to raise prices (due to Federal Communications Commission regulations),” said Chris Duckett-Brown, Pacific Bell senior engineer and tactical planner for Northern California area code relief.

To date, the South Shore has enjoyed the benefits of “protected prefixes” that allow seven-digit dialing across area codes. Currently, eight prefixes in the area cannot be assigned on the other side of the state line, which ties up badly needed prefixes.

One prefix can handle 10,000 phone numbers.

In 1993, 23 new prefixes were assigned in California. The number increased three-fold to 67 in 1996.

“We’re in a jeopardy situation,” said Joanne Collins, California/Nevada area code administrator. “We could run out of prefixes before the new area codes begin unless we take conservation measures.”

Protected prefixes also discourage carrier competition because new local telephone services can not get them.

To encourage competition, the FCC is requiring protected prefixes be eliminated whenever area codes split.

“This will eliminate that disparity,” said Joe Cocke, GTE regional staff administrator.

Telephone officials are encouraging South Shore residents and businesses on both sides of the state line, about 34,000 of them, to gear up for the change.

Advance notice plus the six-month “get-acquanted” period should provide ample time, they said, to notify family, friends, customers and associates; adjust speed dialing and switchboard programs; update business cards, letterhead and brochures; change signs on pay phones and lodging phones; and notify alarm companies.

There will be no change in 411 and 911 calls.

Companies with PBX equipment can test programs beginning July 15 by calling (530) 444-0530.

The California prefixes affected by the dialing change are 541, 542, 543, 544, 659, 573, 577 and 578, which could formerly dial Nevada prefixes 586 and 588 by dialing seven digits – and visa versa.

The situation could be particularly confusing to tourists. Business owners are encouraged to plan signs on phones that explain what prefixes require what area code.

Once residents adjust to the change, more is in store.

In December, 1998, the 702 Nevada area code will split in two. What region keeps the old number has not been decided but the usual policy is to give the new area code to the region that would take the longest to use it up.

If that’s the case, the Nevada-side of Lake Tahoe will also receive a new area code.

Due to the number of California area codes expected to change in the next few years, both changes could not be made at the same time.

“Its pretty much written in stone, at this time,” Pacific Bell’s Duckett-Brown said.


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