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[whitespace] Silicon Valley soon to sport a new area code--669

Santa Clara County--Silicon Valley will no longer be synonymous with the 408 area code next year. At the strike of the new millennium--along with falling planes, vanishing bank accounts and general mass chaos--a new area code, 669, will appear throughout Santa Clara County.

The 408 area code is running out of numbers, says the California Public Utilities Commission, and the new 669 area code is needed to meet the surging demand for additional phone numbers, seen in both the 408 area code and across the state. But instead of splitting the region into two area codes, the commission approved an "overlay," meaning that a second area code will be added to the 408 geographic area. After Jan. 8, 2000, both the 408 and 669 area codes will co-exist within the same geographical area.

Under this plan, all current 408 customers will keep their area code and their telephone number. After Jan. 8, 2000, however, new telephone customers or those adding additional lines may be assigned a 669 area code. This means customers may have two area codes in the same business, neighborhood, and even the same home.

This also means that all calls in the 408 and 669 area codes must be dialed using 11 digits: 1 + area code + the seven-digit phone number.

Starting on Oct. 2, mandatory 11-digit dialing will be required for all calls within the 408 area code.

"Even if you want to call across the street to another 408 number, you will still need to dial one plus four-oh-eight," said John Bañuelos, co-chair of 408 Public Education Task Force, Pacific Bell.

Call rates will not be affected. Calls that were local before the area-code change will remain local.

"An area code does not determine the cost of a call," Bañuelos says. "Strictly the distance does."

Calls to 911, 411, 611 and 311 will not be affected, either.

The overlay will affect San Jose, Cupertino, Sunnyvale, Milpitas, Santa Clara, Saratoga, Campbell, Los Gatos, Lexington Hills, San Antonio Valley, Morgan Hill and Gilroy. It will also affect small parts of San Mateo, Stanislaus, Merced and Santa Cruz counties.

This isn't the first overlay for California, but it is the first for the Bay Area. Beginning in April 2000, area-code zones for 510, 650 and 415 will follow suit, according to the Public Education Program Task Force.

"Area-code relief has been going on for a long time in the Bay Area," says Walter Mosley, co-chair of 408 Public Education Task Force, California Cable Television Association, referring to a not-so distant time in the past when Oakland and the Peninsula cities, now 650 regions, had a 415 area code. "In the cycle that we're seeing, area codes are running out of numbers and need relief," he adds.

This number shortage isn't only a Bay Area problem, it's a statewide dilemma. Currently there are 26 area codes in California. But according to California Public Utilities commissioner Josiah L. Neeper, the Golden State will boast 41 area codes by 2002.

"The key factor is numbers exhaustion," he says. "The joke is, for the existing area codes, we've got one office building in the center of L.A. and one office in the center of San Francisco. That is the joke. But the phenomenon is that area codes are getting smaller and smaller."

For more information on the overlay area code, see www.cpuc.ca.gov.
Jessica Lyons

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Web extra to the August 5-11, 1999 issue of Metro.

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