Inside the Capitol

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

8-4 Who Gets the New Area Code?

Syndicated Columnist

SANTA FE -- It is a distinct pleasure to have the opportunity to say something nice about the state Public Regulation Commission.
It isn't often that the opportunity has presented itself. Since its creation in the late '90s, the PRC has been fraught with controversial decisions, controversial hirings and infighting among its five members.
The last time the PRC talked about adding a new telephone area code in the state a huge uproar ensued. Many claims were made that the change was sprung on the public without notice.
But this time, no one can claim the area code change comes as a surprise. It has been well advertised. Twelve hearings have been held around the state. And a Web site has been set up at
The change may end up being just as controversial as it was previously, when a last minute decision to alter the way new numbers were allocated, allowed a postponement. But this time, a decision will have to be made by October, we are told.
Expect regional differences to be front and center once again. Last time it was a battle between Albuquerque and the rest of the state, with all the venom between the big, bad bully and the hicks from the sticks coming to the surface.
And it appears headed that direction again. The Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce has taken the position that since Albuquerque is big, it shouldn't have to change.
I've had trouble understanding that reasoning. It would seem that the division of the state would be into two rather equal parts. So neither part would be bigger.
Actually, if Albuquerque wants to make the argument that it is growing faster than the rest of the state, the Albuquerque portion should be smaller, since it would use up its new telephone numbers faster.
It may be that Albuquerque has more businesses that would be adversely affected by having to reprogram their phone systems, reprint stationery and whatever else might have a phone number on it.
I haven't seen the numbers on that, but I will grant that businesses and governmental agencies will have more of a hassle from a change than would individuals. I personally don't care which way it goes. I can handle it either way.
Actually, I will remain a little confused with either area code. New Mexicans who received their Social Security cards at about the same time I did have a number, the first three digits of which are very similar to either area code.
I still need a little convincing that the Albuquerque area has more businesses and governmental agencies than the rest of the state. Think about it.
Albuquerque has one city government. The rest of the state has a hundred. Albuquerque has one county government. The rest of the state has 32. Albuquerque has one school district. The rest of the state has 88. Similar comparisons can be made in the business sector. I just don't happen to have those numbers.
The argument is made that the majority should rule on who gets to keep the old area code. Ostensibly, they mean the big city should rule. But it's not in the majority.
The majority will rule. And the only people voting will be the five PRC members. Most likely, they will vote the wishes of their constituents. One of those five members is from Albuquerque.
Three of the other four members have districts that include small portions of Bernalillo County. But the majority of at least three PRC districts are made up of people outside Albuquerque's proposed area code region. The Albuquerque folks have some real convincing to do.
An alternative this time around is an overlay system in which new numbers will receive the new area code. It will require everyone to dial the area code on every call, which doesn't sound too difficult.
But the same folks who don't want a new area code oppose this system too.
FRI, 8-4-06

JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505
(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)



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