The draft decision of the ALJ in this matter was mailed to the parties in accordance with Pub. Util. Code § 311(g)(1) and Rule 77.7 of the Rules and Practice and Procedure. Comments were filed on August 15, 2005, and reply comments were filed on August 22, 2005.
We have reviewed parties' comments on the Draft Decision, and have taken them into account, as warranted, in finalizing the overlay implementation plan. We provide a discussion below of certain specific comments on the Draft Decision.
In its comments on the Draft Decision, the Coalition opposes implementing any area code relief plan at this time. The Coalition argues that it is premature to implement a new area code based on its claim that a telephone number utilization study has not been performed to determine that number inventory in the 310 area code is being efficiently utilized pursuant to Pub. Util. Code § 7943.
We find the Coalition's claim unpersuasive that it is necessary or useful to conduct another telephone number utilization study before proceeding with implementation of a 310/424 area code relief plan. Contrary to the Coalition claim, we are in compliance with § 7943 in that a number utilization study has already been completed for the 310 area code. Although the utilization study was completed in March 2000, the Commission's Telecommunications Division has continued to monitor telephone number utilization in the 310 area code since then up until the present time. Thus, we have an accurate and reliable picture concerning how numbers are being utilized in the 310 area code.
In addition, on February 16, 2001, the Telecommunications Division completed an independent audit of the number utilization data from the 310 area code utilization report. In its published audit findings, the Telecommunications Division's reached three overall conclusions. First, the audit found that carriers did not deliberately misreport telephone number utilization data for the March 2000 Report on the 310 area code. Second, the audit authenticated the utilization data that carriers submitted for the March Report, except for certain recommended adjustments as noted in the audit report. Third, the audit found that the additional telephone number adjustments noted in the audit report were not sufficient to extend the life of the 310 area code. Even with the unused blocks of numbers remaining as found in the March 2000 Utilization Report, various constraints limited the ability of carriers to make use of these unassigned numbers in meeting current customer service needs in certain rate centers, as previously discussed. Accordingly, given the limited quantity of prefix codes remaining, the staff audit report recommended that the 310 area code back-up plan proceed with implementation. Nonetheless, even though the staff recommended immediate implementation at that time, we have been able to defer implementing the new area code up until now.
In view of the independent audit conducted by the Telecommunications Division, we have added assurance that the underlying utilization data reported in March 2000 report was reliable, and that carriers were not deliberately misreporting data. In addition, the Telecommunications Division has continued to monitor changes in number utilization data in the 310 area code since March 2000. Moreover, since the March 2000 utilization report was completed, carriers have been subject to the strict utilization documentation requirements, as previously noted above, in order to obtain additional numbers from the NANPA.
In view of these facts, we have reliable contemporary data concerning number utilization. No useful purpose would be served by expending time and resources to conduct another number utilization study or audit for the 310 area code before implementing a new area code. On the other hand, delaying relief to conduct such a new study would serve to increase the risk that stock of numbers could be depleted at least for certain carriers in certain rate centers before a new area code could be implemented.
In further comments on the Draft Decision, the Coalition claims that "not all reasonable telephone number conservation measures have been implemented," as required by Pub. Util. Code § 7943.
We find this claim unsupported by the facts. For example, although the Coalition calls for the return of unused numbers in the inventory of paging companies, this Commission has no authority to order paging companies to return additional stocks of numbers. The Coalition speculates that this Commission could "work more closely with the FCC to explore how such numbers can be returned to the 310 pool," yet the Coalition provides no explanation as to whether, when, or how FCC rules would be changed in this regard. It would be irresponsible for this Commission to avoid implementing needed numbering relief based upon speculation in this regard.
Likewise, the Coalition argues that the Commission should resubmit its petition to the FCC for a technology-specific overlay plan. Under the previously submitted plan, an overlay would only apply to assigned numbers that utilized only certain technologies such as wireless telecommunications. As acknowledged by the Coalition, such an approach would require separate FCC approval. The Commission previously submitted such a proposal to the FCC, but subsequently withdrew it after the passage of time with no action from the FCC. Moreover, under current federal rules, customers are now able to port their telephone numbers between wireline and wireless carriers. Thus, with the ability to port numbers between technologies in this manner, any plan that would limit the overlay area code on a technology-specific basis is rendered moot.
In its comments on the Draft Decision, the Coalition also repeats its argument that the Commission should reverse its previous position in recognizing the FCC's jurisdiction for establishing carrier inventory rules. We have already dealt with this argument above.
In its comments on the Draft Decision, the Coalition also raises the question of how the Commission plans to conduct area code relief in the future throughout the state-both in terms of conservation measures and as a preferred form of area code relief planning. The Coalition asks the Commission to formally address telephone number utilization throughout the state with a consistent statewide policy that can be explained to policy makers, community leaders, and consumers.
In terms of number conservation measures, the Commission has already implemented numerous measures on a statewide basis as enumerated in various prior decisions issued in this docket. As to the question of what form of area code relief may be appropriate in future regions of California, that issue is beyond the limited scope of this decision which concerns itself with the Petition to Modify D.00-09-073 relating specifically to the 310 area code relief plan. Given the demographic diversity of the various area code regions within California, a one-size-fits-all approach to area code relief planning may be questionable. In any event, we make no prejudgment in this decision concerning what form of area code relief may be warranted in other California geographic regions in the future.
The Coalition further proposes that if the overlay does proceed, the Task Force for the PEP should include representation from the area that will be impacted by the relief plan. In reply comments, the "Joint Telecommunications Carriers" (JTC) indicate that they would welcome constructive input from community representatives (e.g., an educator or someone involved with special needs communities such as senior citizens or the disabled). Such input could then be used by the Task Force as it implements the PEP. Accordingly, we shall direct that the PEP Task Force membership be augmented to include such representation from the 310 area code community. We shall direct the Commission staff coordinator of the PEP Task Force to take appropriate steps to obtain representation in this regard. In any event, however, the implementation schedule for the PEP must not be delayed because of the time involved in obtaining community representation for the PEP Task Force.
In comments on the Draft Decision filed by Mr. Douglas Carlson and TCLA, they argue that the Commission should defer the overlay implementation to consider the use of only 10-digit dialing (instead of the currently required "1+" 10-digit dialing). As noted by both Mr. Carlson and TCLA, the Commission previously required "1+" 10-digit dialing as a condition for implementing an overlay in D.96-12-086. Although the FCC does require 10-digit dialing for all calls within an overlay region, Mr. Carlson correctly points out that the "1" preceding a 10-digit telephone number is not a specific requirement of the FCC. Nonetheless, the wireline telephone network is currently configured in California to require the dialing of the "1" preceding a 10-digit-dialed telephone number. TCLA and CALTEL argue, moreover, that because calls over the wireless telephone network do not require the additional "1+" prefix, the overlay as planned would not be competitively neutral. In other words, only wireline customers would experience the "1+10-digit" dialing requirement while wireless customers would only have to dial 10 digits, without the preceding "1+" prefix.
Wireline customers and service providers in California are accustomed to, and have conformed with, the 1+10-digit dialing plan for any call to a different area code. With an overlay, wireline customers will still be required to dial the "1+" preceding the 10 digits, even within the same area code. To the extent that wireless customers currently do not dial the "1+" preceding 10-digit calls, they will continue in the same manner after the overlay takes effect. Thus, the overlay will simply continue area code dialing protocols that already exist with respect to wireline and wireless customers. Given the impending exhaust of the 310 area code, consideration of the implications of a policy change from 1+10-digit to 10-digit only dialing, cannot reasonably be accomplished within the limited time available to implement the PEP for the 310 area code overlay.21 Accordingly, we shall implement the overlay under the constraints of existing "1+" dialing patterns as they apply to wireline carriers. Further consideration of 1+10-digit dialing pattern changes should be addressed through the Petition for Modification of D.96-12-086 submitted by Mr. Carlson on August 3, 2005.
In its comments on the Draft Decision, the Coalition also argues that the Commission should pursue new efforts to seek FCC permission for carriers to dial only their seven-digit line number for calls within the same area code within an overlay region. The Coalition argues that seven-digit dialing would not only alleviate the inconvenience of the overlay, but would create consistency in dialing patterns with other area codes in California.
The requirement for the area code to be dialed along with the seven-digit line number (i.e., 10-digit dialing) was originally required by the FCC, and also adopted by this Commission to produce competitive neutrality among carriers whose numbers were subject to an area code overlay. Absent this requirement, the dialing burden of the new overlay area code would disproportionately disadvantage customers of carriers that could not obtain numbers in the established area code. As with the other proposals of the Coalition, it would be speculative to assume when or whether, if at all, the FCC would reverse its rules to permit seven-digit dialing for calls within an overlay region. It would produce an unreasonable delay in area code relief to pursue such a request while denying area code relief implementation waiting for the FCC to answer such a request.
In comments on the Draft Decision, the JTC ask the Commission to consider shortening the implementation schedule by two months so that carriers will be able to begin obtaining numbers from the new overlay area code sooner. The JTC seek the shortening of time in view of their concern that number exhaust may occur before the new area code is opened.
We decline to shorten the schedule as suggested by the JTC. The duration for the PEP has been established so that sufficient time will be available to complete the planning, preparation, and execution of the various measures involved. A shortening of the time could unduly compromise the integrity of the planning and preparation process for the PEP. Accordingly, to provide assurance that there will be adequate time to conduct the PEP and to meet the goals set forth in this decision, we shall not shorten the schedule.
21 Implementing a 10-digit dialing only in the 310/424 area is equally problematic given the existing statewide dialing patterns in the state, the need for immediate area code relief and the potential customer confusion.