541 vastly outnumbers the new 458 phone prefix

Have we been prematurely saying the 541 prefix for no reason? Seems like a number of years ago the phone system required us to use the 10-digit phone number instead of our old, time-saving, seven-digit numbers because they expected to "run out of 541s ..." Back whenever it was, they explained that an additional prefix would be in use soon. Well, is there another one out there for our Southern Oregon area yet? We just moved locally and we were still assigned a 541 prefix. I'd just like to be reassured I'm not wasting my time every time I've had to say or dial "541" for local calls.

— Dee W., Medford

You haven't been saying — or dialing — the 541 prefix for nothing, Dee, even though you'd be hard-pressed to find many numbers using the new 458 prefix.

Clearly, the 541 prefix far outnumbers that new Southern Oregon prefix.

Bruce Hellebuyck, utility analyst for the Oregon Public Utilities Commission, said that 458 was implemented in February 2010 to address the "number exhaustion" issues occurring with the 541 prefix. In other words, they were running out of numbers.

There are only four prefixes for Oregon. They include 541 and 458 for Eastern, Central and Southern Oregon and 503 and 971 for the Portland area.

The 971 prefix was implemented in October 2000, also because of exhaustion issues with the 503 area code. Kinda makes you exhausted just thinking about it.

"In the state of Oregon, there are over 8 million active phone numbers," Hellebuyck said. "The vast majority of those have 541 or 503 area codes."

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.


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