BOISE – State regulators will keep Idaho from being split into two area codes for a little longer.
The Federal Communications Commission granted a request from the Idaho Public Utilities Commission to allow a pooled phone number system in Idaho.
That means that state regulators can order most of Idaho’s telecommunications providers to pool their unused phone numbers, making them available to competitors as needed, the Idaho Press-Tribune reported.
NeuStar Inc., a company that manages telephone area codes in North America, had predicted that Idaho’s 208 area code would run out of telephone numbers in 2010. The mandatory pooling rule should stave off that date, officials said.
“It has been the long-standing policy of this commission to delay the implementation of another area code as long as possible to avoid the resulting disruption, inconvenience and potential cost to Idaho’s business and residential customers,” Idaho Public Utilities Commission President Paul Kjellander said.
Telephone numbers are generally assigned to telecommunications companies in 10,000-number blocks.
However, many providers do not use all the numbers assigned to them, state regulators said, leaving many phone numbers “stranded” but not in use.
In its petition to the FCC seeking mandatory number pooling, the Idaho commission reported that only 42.2 percent of the numbers assigned to Idaho providers are in use.
Similar number-pooling efforts have paid off for the state in the past.
In 2001, the FCC predicted that Idaho’s area code would run out of available numbers in 2003.
But in 2002 the state commission ordered Boise-area phone companies to return unused numbers.
The commission also began issuing new numbers to providers in the region in 1,000-number blocks instead of 10,000-number blocks.
The new order expands that policy to the entire state.