Montana’s 406 area code is running out of space | 406 Politics
Montana’s 406 area code is quickly running out of room for new numbers, and the state’s Civil Service Commission has asked the Federal Communications Commission for an extension to add a second area code to Big Sky Country.
Public Service Commissioners voted Tuesday to contact the FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau, about granting the state a waiver so it can keep 406 as the only area code for state for a few more years. Currently, 406 is expected to peak in 2027, although numbers using the area code are only 37% of its capacity.
The quirky nature of having a single area code for an entire state has become a hallmark of Montanan’s identity. About 400 Montana businesses have incorporated 406 into their names since 2007, according to registration information with the Montana secretary of state.
“The FCC recognizes and prioritizes maintaining area codes because of their geographic identity to an area, so we’re not just riding on all of that,” said commissioner Tony O’Donnell, who represents Billings and the Southwest. east of Montana.
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Commission rates analyst Michael Dalton told commissioners that the reason the 406 lacks room for new numbers is because of the way the FCC pre-assigns blocks of numbers to specific prefixes. Missoula’s 728, for example, comes preloaded with room for about 10,000 phone numbers, with unused numbers ending in 0000 until filled. Those unused numbers still count toward the total, Dalton explained. And, in rural Montana communities where a few hundred phone numbers might be the only numbers issued for a prefix, the number remains at 10,000.
The CFP wants these empty numbers to be transferred to other prefixes.
“We should check with the folks in Flaxville and make sure they’re okay with not having a thousand phone numbers each,” said Brad Johnson, commissioner for the Northern Rockies District anchored by Flathead, Lake and Lewis and Clark counties. .
The issue arose because the Wire Line Competition Bureau is considering waivers to extend the life of the Maine and North Dakota area codes. Maine’s area code is due to expire in 2025, North Dakota’s in 2026. Commissioners voted in favor of waivers for those states.
“At the state level, area code 406, which should support about 8 million Montana phone numbers, shouldn’t be on the brink of exhaustion in a state with only about 1, 1 million people,” the commissioners said in a draft letter to the Wireline Competition Bureau.
This is not the first time that the PSC has chosen to ride for the 406 brand, which has been close to exhaustion for ten years.