I’ve Got Your Number–Or Do I?

phoneIf Nana is one of your grandmothers and Grandpa is a grandfather, who’s NANPA?

Nope, NANPA is not one of the relatives showing up at your table this holiday season. Nor will NANPA send you any Christmas present. But it could affect your phone calls when the spirit of Christmas future comes rolling around.

NANPA is the North American Numbering Plan Administrator, and its job is to administer the area code numbering system in a neutral way. Since 1997, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has selected a private company called Neustar to fill the role. Formerly, the company was Lockheed Martin IMS.

One of NANPA’s jobs is to figure out how fast area codes are being used and when available numbers will run out. It reports information to the FCC and other regulatory bodies so they can take action.

For example, NANPA projects that the 740 area code for central and southern Ohio will run out of numbers by 2015. In response, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio has just approved new area code 220. The new area code will overlay the old one.

NANPA also interfaces with industry and regulators on matters relating to toll-free numbers. Under an FCC order, numbers started becoming available for the new 844 toll-free area code last week. Apparently, the actual numbers are doled out by yet another entity, SMS/800, Inc.

On the one hand, it’s good that some folks are coordinating these things and working to make sure we don’t run out of phone numbers. For quite a while, though, more and more of those numbers have gone to machines—credit card readers for businesses, gasoline pumps, and so on.

And let’s face it. There are only 1,000 numbers from 000 to 999. It’s already tricky enough remembering 10 digits for folks’ phone numbers. When we get to 4-digit area codes, we’ll be pushing the limits of many people’s short-term memories.

So, I’ve got your number—at least for now. Who knows what could happen in the future?

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