Area code change disconnects with 408 die-hards

State regulators introduced a proposed new area code for Santa Clara County at a public hearing.

March 16, 2011 6:01:53 PM PDT
The South Bay's area code 408 is running out of numbers and Silicon Valley is partly to blame. Companies such as Apple with its iPhone and Google with its Android smartphone operating system have fueled the demand for numbers. So, a plan is underway to add area code 669.

Silicon Valley has had the 408 area code for 52 years. But the proliferation of cell phones, ATMs and even in-car navigational devices has exhausted the supply of numbers.

"I like 408, and it is part of my identity. But I can understand if they have to change, they have to change," South Bay resident Dianne Forster said.

A new area code is being introduced -- 669. The debate over who gets to keep 408 and who gets 669 is underway. One plan calls for an overlay, which means new numbers will be assigned 669 while current customers retain 408.

The other plan is a geographic split. Downtown and western San Jose, Campbell, Saratoga and Los Gatos would be in one area code. Sunnyvale, the rest of San Jose, Milpitas, Morgan Hill, San Martin and Gilroy would be in another area code, but no one is saying which would retain 408.

The CPUC says it normally takes 18 months to deliberate which option to choose, but with the numbers scheduled to run out by the end of next year, they say they'll have to move a lot faster.

Hearings are underway to get public input.

"We'll see what the people have to say, and the people have an opportunity to comment to the CPUC up until the decision is made, which is probably going to be several months from now," CPUC Analyst Katherine Morehouse said.

Phone carriers and the San Jose City Council favor the overlay option. A geographic split would trigger updates to business card, brochures and other materials for companies.

"I think it'll bring a little bit of business in. We mainly do corporate marketing, nonprofit, direct mail and printing," Ramsey Nijmeh from Diamond Printing & Direct Mail Services said.

There could be another impact.

"In my circle and the friends that I have, I have a lot of friends into hip-hop and the rap and stuff, and they're all about the 408. I mean, what are they going to do? They're all going to have to change their shirts," San Jose resident Juan Serna said.

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