North Dakota Petitions To Keep A Single Area Code

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakotans are accustomed to seven digit phone dialing because the entire state is under the 701 area code.

State officials want to keep it that way. North Dakota is projected to run out of numbers under the 701 area code by 2026. So the Public Service Commission is seeking permission from federal regulators to free up unused phone numbers in order to keep just one area code.

When a phone company wants to expand to a new part of the state, it must request a block of numbers to serve that area and the Federal Communications Commission works with state officials to assign the block, the Bismarck Tribune reported.

Each block must contain at least 1,000 phone numbers. Sometimes, the service area the block is assigned to is a small town where just a few dozen or few hundred of those numbers are needed. The rest go unused.

PSC Commissioner Randy Christmann said North Dakota encompasses nearly 300 service areas, and 88% of them use less than 20% of the phone numbers assigned to them.

North Dakota joins two other states with a single area code, New Hampshire and Maine, in petitioning the FCC to allow them more leniency in assigning phone numbers to service areas.

They want the federal government to lift the 1,000-number minimum in each block so that fewer numbers could be assigned to a service area. Millions of numbers are tied up under existing rules, Christmann said.