The Association of U S West Retirees



Ready to start dialing 10 digits?


The Bulletin

By Andres Navarro

December 22. 2009


What you need to know

Things that will change as of Jan. 10

Callers must begin dialing a three-digit area code for local calls. (Phone companies will begin assigning numbers to the new 458 area code after Feb. 10.)


Things that will not change

• Existing 541 area code telephone numbers will stay the same.
• Local calling areas will remain the same.
• Dialing 911 and 411 will stay the same.


Things to check for personal telephones

• Check whether automatic-dialers, fax machines and computer modems need to be reprogrammed before Jan. 10.
• Ensure everyone in your household is aware that 10-digit dialing for all local calls will be required.


What should businesses do?

All businesses in Oregon should verify that their telephone equipment is capable of completing calls to the new 458 area code. Some telephone equipment used by businesses will not recognize the new area code until the equipment has been reprogrammed or upgraded. Special test numbers are available until April 10, 2010.

The local
Bend test number is 458-333-8373.
When making a test call that is long distance, dial 1+ the 10-digit number.
Oregon Public Utility Commission
For more information
Visit the Oregon Public Utility Commission Web site, or call 1-800-522-2404.


Oregonians living in the 541 area code will soon have to start dialing 10 digits in order to make local calls when seven-digit dialing will no longer work after Jan. 10.

Last year, the Oregon Public Utilities Commission approved the additional 458 area code after a study projected that the 541 area code will run out of available phone numbers by early 2010, said Bob Valdez, PUC public affairs specialist. The new area code should provide enough phone numbers to address the growing need in the coming years.

“The demand has been up for several reasons,” he said. “Some of the reasons are increased cell phone usage and people have one or two phone lines.”

To make sure people living in the 541 area code region know about the coming change, the PUC has been working together with local phone companies to conduct outreach to all customers in the area. Information regarding the new dialing system has been sent out to customers inside their monthly billing statements, and companies have been advising people of the change through customer service lines.

Qwest spokesman Bob Gravely said the change should not be a problem because the company already experienced an area code change in the Portland and Salem area in 2000 when the 971 area code was added.

“When we have a project like this, we have a team together that makes sure everything gets taken care of,” he said. “We make sure our customers have the necessary information to adjust to the change.”

So far, Qwest customers have received two direct notifications in the mail regarding the change, Gravely said. Customers also are being informed of the upcoming change through local technical support staff.

Cell phone provider U.S. Cellular is taking steps to ensure people know about the dialing change, said Brian Ayers, a U.S. Cellular spokesman. The company is sending out information about the area code change inside customers’ billing statements, and on Jan. 6, 7 and 8, U.S. Cellular customers will receive a mass text message advising them of the change.

“The people most affected by this will be those who are used to dialing seven digits,” he said. “But people won’t start embracing the change until it actually happens.”

PUC has suggested to use 10-digit dialing since July 12 to help people through the mandatory change in January, Valdez said. The most common change callers will have to make is updating their speed-dial settings or their saved contacts on their phones to include the new area code.

Businesses in Oregon that utilize specialized communications equipment such as PBX, electronic telephone sets, auto-dial systems or multi-dial key systems should also verify whether their telephone equipment is capable of completing calls to the new area code. To do this, PUC provided test numbers to call, which should confirm if the equipment needs to be reprogrammed or upgraded, Valdez said. If the test call is unsuccessful, the caller will receive a message letting them know their call could not be completed.

No additional changes come with the 10-digit dialing. Customers with existing 541 phone numbers will not have to change their numbers, the coverage area will remain the same, keeping locals calls the same, and no calling rates will change.

The 541 area code covers all of Oregon except the 503 and 971 region. The new area code will overlay the 541 region. The 458 area code will not be seen until possibly February or March of next year, Valdez said, because phone companies still have inventories of 541 phone numbers to distribute.

“This provides the longest solution going into the future,” he said. “We think it’s the least confusing for folks here but it also addresses the need for more phone numbers in the future.”

Andres Navarro can be reached at 541-617-7818 or at