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PENNSYLVANIA PUBLIC UTILITY COMMISSION

Rate Center Consolidation; M-00011452

Commissioners Present:  John M. Quain, Chairperson; Robert K. Bloom, Vice Chairperson; Nora Mead Brownell; Aaron Wilson, Jr.; Terrance J. Fitzpatrick

[31 Pa.B. 1200]

Public Meeting held
February 8, 2001

Final Order

By the Commission:

Introduction

   Because of the rapid depletion of area codes in this Commonwealth1 the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (Commission) has been actively monitoring the need for area code relief while investigating and implementing various number conservation measures.2 One number conservation measure that the Commission has previously investigated in 1997 and 1998 is rate center consolidation (RCC).3 RCC is a number conservation measure that permits the combination of existing rate centers4 into a smaller number of larger rating areas. Fewer rate centers in an area code allows certain carriers to use fewer NXX codes when entering a market to provide service.5 Implementation of this measure has the potential of decreasing the need for additional numbering resources in the area codes located in this Commonwealth, thereby prolonging the current area codes or numbering plan areas (NPAs).

   The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has permitted the Commission and other states to consider RCC as a number conservation measure that may reduce number usage and decrease the frequency of the need for additional area codes.6 The FCC affirmed this grant of authority for states to consider RCC in its delegation order issued July 20, 2000.7 Specifically, the FCC emphasized that state commissions do not require any additional delegation of authority to engage in rate center consolidation because this number conservation measure involves local calling scopes and ratings which clearly fall under a state commission's ratemaking authority.8

   In its most recent order of December 29, 20009 , the FCC further discussed RCC. The FCC strongly encouraged state commissions to proceed as expeditiously as possible to consolidate rate centers located in their Numbering Plan Areas (NPA).

Discussion

   The Commission is anxious to implement RCC in this Commonwealth as expeditiously as possible so that numbering resources can be used efficiently by all carriers operating in this Commonwealth. At the same time, the Commission realizes that the issues involved in RCC can be numerous.10 However, by further investigating and implementing RCC, the Commission will better ensure that telecommunications carriers have adequate numbering resources without needing to resort to adding new area codes.

   On December 20, 2000, in its Final Pooling Order, the Commission established a Number Steering Committee to monitor the progress of the pool in the 610 and 484 NPAs and to resolve issues that may arise during implementation of that number conservation measure.11 The Commission ordered that the Number Steering Committee be chaired by staff and be comprised of representatives from the pool participants, the interim pooling administrator, and the Offices of Consumer Advocate and Small Business Advocate.

   The Commission now directs that a Subcommittee of the Number Steering Committee be established to investigate and propose an implementation plan to consolidate rate centers in all NPAs in this Commonwealth. The Subcommittee will also be chaired by staff and will be comprised of representatives of the telecommunications industry, the Office of Consumer Advocate, and the Office of Small Business Advocate as well as the Pennsylvania Code Administrator. The present members of the Number Steering Committee will assist in finding those individuals who handle RCC for their organizations to serve on this Subcommittee.

   The Commission expects that this Subcommittee will work diligently to produce an RCC plan that can be easily implemented in a timely fashion in this Commonealth's NPAs. Also, the Commission directs that any proposed RCC plan fully consider customer impact and education. Thus, the Commission directs that the Subcommittee meet initially no later than March 15, 2001. At that point, the Commission expects that the Subcommittee will establish a regular meeting schedule and possibly divide into additional subcommittees or working groups to address the specific technical and rate issues inherent to an RCC implementation plan.

   Also, the Commission directs the RCC Subcommittee to conclude its work and file a proposed implementation plan to consolidate any and all rate centers in this Commonwealth's area codes by August 1, 2001. The plan should include maps redrawing rate center boundaries to reflect the proposed consolidation. It should also include a proposed implementation schedule to provide for sufficient network testing and customer notification. At that time, the Commission will review and approve the plan accordingly.

Conclusion

   Because the Commission is concerned about the current availability and usage of numbering resources and the impact of proliferating new area codes on consumers as well as telecommunications carriers, the Commission intends to investigate rate center consolidation through a Subcommittee of the Number Steering Committee. By taking this step to investigate and implement this additional number conservation measure, the Commission will better ensure that telecommunications carriers have adequate numbering resources to operate in this Commonwealth, Therefore,

   It is Ordered That:

   1.  A Subcommittee of the Number Steering Committee be established to devise and implement an RCC plan in any and all area codes in this Commonwealth.

   2.  The RCC Subcommittee, chaired by Commission staff, shall convene its first meeting no later than March 15, 2001, to set forth a meeting schedule and assignment of issues to internal working groups.

   3.  The RCC Subcommittee file with the Commission a proposed RCC implementation plan no later than August 1, 2001.

   4.  A copy of this order be served on all parties listed at this docket, all jurisdictional telecommunications carriers, wireless carriers, the Office of Consumer Advocate, the Office of Small Business Advocate, and the North American Numbering Plan Administrator.

   5.  A copy of this final order shall be published in both the Pennsylvania Bulletin and on the Commission's website at http://puc.paonline.com.

JAMES J. MCNULTY,   
Secretary

[Pa.B. Doc. No. 01-337. Filed for public inspection February 23, 2001, 9:00 a.m.]

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1  An area code becomes depleted when none of its ''NXX codes'' (which are the three digits following the area code in a 10-digit telephone number) are available for assignment to a carrier. Under the current infrastructure, telephone numbers are assigned to carriers by NXX code (which contains 10,000 numbers). Consequently, even if a carrier has only 10 customers, 10,000 numbers are still assigned in that area code causing 9,990 numbers to remain unused and unavailable. The result of this is that available NXX codes in an area code exhaust so that a new area code needs to be instituted to generate new NXX codes, and hence, make new numbers available for assignment.

2  See Relief Plan for the 570 NPA, Docket No. P-00961071F0002 (Order entered September 15, 2000), 30 Pa. B. 5108 (September 30, 2000) (Commission seeking comments about industry consensus plan to institute an all services distributed overlay for the geographic area currently covered by the 570 area code.); Implementation of Number Conservation Measures Granted to Pennsylvania by the Federal Communications Commission in its Order released March 31, 2000--NXX Code Reclamation, Docket No. M-00001373 (Order entered August 22, 2000), 30 Pa.B. 4701 (September 2, 2000) (Commission established process for reclaiming NXX codes from carriers who have failed to activate them within 6 months of their availability for assignment to customers.); Implementation of Number Conservation Measures Granted to Pennsylvania by the Federal Communications Commission in its Order released July 20, 2000--Thousand-Block Number Pooling, Docket Nos. M-00001427 and P-00961061F0002 (Order entered December 27, 2000) (Commission ordered 1,000 block pooling in the 610/484 area codes to be implemented on April 2, 2001); Implementation of Number Conservation Measures Granted to Pennsylvania by the Federal Communications Commission in its Order released July 20, 2000--NXX Code Rationing, Docket Nos. M-00001427F0002 and P-0961027F0002 (Order entered December 27, 2000) (Commission ordered that NXX code rationing would continue in the 412 and 878 area codes at a rate of six per month until February 17, 2002).

3  See Petition of NPA Relief Coordinator regarding 412, 215/610, and 717 Area Code Relief Plans, Docket Nos. P-00961027, P-00961061, and P-00961071 (Order entered December 19, 1997) (Commission established Joint Task Force to receive and analyze comments on rate center consolidation and other number conservation measures in Commonwealth area codes).

4  The FCC defines rate centers generally as creations of the incumbent local exchange carriers to facilitate billing and routing of calls. In the Matter of Numbering Resource Optimization, CC Docket Nos. 99-200, 96-98, NSD File No. L-99-101, ¶59 (FCC's Delegation Order).

5  Presently, Competitive Local Exchange Carriers (CLECs) desiring to provide service to a specific market area require NXX codes in each and every rate center in the area they wish to serve. Under the present system of utilizing telephone numbers for rating purposes, a given NPA-NXX code may only be assigned to a single rating area; the more rating areas in an NPA, the more NXX codes that must be assigned.

6  Petition for Declaratory Ruling and Request for Expedited Action on the July 15, 1997 Order of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission Regarding Area Codes 412, 610, 215 and 717, Memorandum Opinion and Order and Order on Reconsideration, 13 FCC Rcd 19009, 19025 (1998) (Pennsylvania Order)

7  In the Matter of Numbering Resource Optimization, CC Docket Nos. 99-200, 96-98, NSD File No. L-99-101 (FCC's Delegation Order).

8  Id. at ¶59.

9  In the Matter of Numbering Resource Optimization, Second Report and Order, CC Docket No. 99-200, CC Docket No. 96-98, December 29, 2000 (FCC's Second NRO Order).

10  For example, in the Commission's previous investigation of consolidating rate centers, participants in a Joint Task Force found that impact may occur to local exchange and intraLATA toll rates in this Commonwealth, which prompted concerns about billing systems and recovery of lost revenues. Also, this same Joint Task Force identified issues relating to the impact on 911 systems and geographic location of those centers to be consolidated.

11  Implementation of Number Conservation Measures Granted to Pennsylvania by the Federal Communications Commission in its Order released July 20, 2000--Thousand-Block Number Pooling, Docket Nos. M-00001427 and P-00961061F0002 (Order entered December 27, 2000) (Commission ordered 1,000 block pooling in the 610/484 area codes to be implemented on April 2, 2001).



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