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PSC working to extend life of "406" area code

As we approach another 4/06 day, Montana will look to remain the “406” for well into the future thanks to the Montana Public Service Commission’s efforts to ensure phone numbers are allocated more efficiently across the state.

 The “406” area code is currently forecasted for exhaustion in late 2027. However, the PSC recently delivered comments to the Federal Communications Commission asking that Montana be given a waiver from FCC rules that would otherwise go into effect during a three-year planning period when a state anticipates the need for a new area code.

 The North American Numbering Pool Administrator (NANPA) currently assigns carriers numbering resources in blocks of 1000 phone numbers per rate center or geographic location.

This allocation frequently leads to wasted numbers, particularly in rural areas without enough residents to fill the block. The PSC is asking the FCC to explore all options available to extend the life of the “406”, including the use of individual telephone number (ITN) pooling, which would assign numbering resources to providers on an individual number basis rather than the 1000 number blocks. In other words, if a carrier has a need for 500 numbers, it would be assigned 500 telephone numbers for its customers, rather than a full 1000 number block.

 “The 406 area code is a unique part of Montana culture,” said Erik Wilkerson, Executive Director. “It’s become uniquely branded with our state and its residents and we will look to continue the ability for it to be offered to residents within our borders for years to come.”

 In 2013, the Commission took action to extend “406” life. That order implemented a policy known as “mandatory number-pooling,” which requires telecommunication carriers to return a 1000-number block back to the numbering pool if the carrier is utilizing 10% or less of the phone numbers in a block. This practice makes numbers from that block available to new providers or providers requesting additional numbers in the same rate center.

 Montana is one of 11 remaining states with a single area code.