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Since You Asked: The 4-1-1 on the 458 area code

When I recently moved to Southern Oregon and signed up for a new phone plan, I ended up with a 458 area code instead of the 541 code most locals have. Is that even local?

My phone carrier said that’s all they have now. When did the 458 area code come about?

— Archie, via phone query

It’s not as widespread as the 541 code that many Rogue Valley residents have been rocking since '95, but 458 is indeed a legitimate area code.

According to the dusty archives of the ‘ol Muddy Tributary, 458 has been recognized by the North American Numbering Plan Administration as one of Oregon’s four area codes since Feb. 10, 2010.

In the beginning — or at least from 1947 to Nov. 5, 1995 — Oregon had just one area code, 503. The North American Numbering Council, a Federal Advisory Committee that advises the FCC, allowed a certain leftmost corner of the state to keep its area code while Eastern, Central and Southern Oregon switched to 541, according to Mail Tribune stories printed July 10, 2009, and Oct. 22, 2008.

Northwestern Oregon got its third area code, 971, in October 2000. In early 2010, about the same time Southern Oregonians got used to 10-digit dialing, the NANC and the Oregon Public Utility Commission picked 458.

In 2008, an Oregon PUC spokesperson told us the 458 area code was chosen from a pretty shallow pool of unused codes, and gave us the quote, “The selection process was beyond our control.”

Under NANC guidelines, the code couldn’t be confused with other three-digit number codes in the system during that time when 10-digit dialing was optional.

Our archives show that it took years before the 458 area code saw much use, with a PUC spokesperson telling SYA headquarters in 2013 that the “vast majority” of Oregon’s active phone numbers at that time had 541 or 503 area codes.

By late 2016, however, the number was fully in the mix. RAM Restaurant & Brewery was among the first businesses with the new number.

And where do phone numbers come from? If you’ll allow us to crib from Wikipedia just this once, we’ll tell you that these days the administration of the North American Numbering Plan has been overseen since January 2019 by the private company Somos, Inc.

Prior to 1984, phone numbers were performed by AT&T’s Central Services Organization, but that changed with the breakup of the Bell system. A Sterling, Virginia-based private company known as Neustar — spun off from Lockheed Martin — previously handled the contract.

Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; or by email to youasked@rosebudmedia.com.