Dial 928 For Rim Country

Commission rings in with new area code

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Beginning June 23, the Rim country's 520 area code will be the wrong number. It will be replaced here and throughout most of rural Arizona with 928.

But callers will have plenty of time to get used to the new sequence. A permissive dialing period which means calls will be completed with either 928 or 520 will be in effect from June 23 to Jan. 5, 2002.

After that date, callers who use the old area code will hear a message that directs them to hang up and dial again using the new number.

The Arizona Corporation Commission decided to split the 520 area code on a geographic basis last week, leaving Tucson and parts of southern Arizona with the old 520 code.

"Pinal, Pima, Santa Cruz and Cochise counties will retain the 520 area code with the exception of a few small areas where rate centers cross county lines," said Heather Murphy, commission public information officer.

The rationale for assigning the new area code to rural Arizona is that the largest concentration of businesses is in Tucson, Murphy said.

The only other area of the state unaffected by the change is Maricopa County, which recently underwent a geographic split that added two new area codes 480 and 623 to the 602 code that once blanketed all of Arizona.

The 928 area code was selected by the North American Numbering Plan Administrator, which oversees the assignment of area codes for the U.S., Canada and 16 Caribbean nations. To avoid confusion, the plan administrator avoids using a number that is similar to a nearby area code, or one that is already assigned as a prefix in the existing area code territory, such as 474, Murphy said.

New area codes are introduced as the supply of available numbers in the old code area shrinks. Competition in telecommunications and the rapid proliferation of cellular phones, pagers, fax machines and enhanced Internet services are some of the reasons a new area code was necessary just six years after the 520 code was introduced.

Virtually all Rim country businesses will have the added expense of reprinting business cards, letterhead and other items that contain telephone numbers. For Jan Puckett, who co-owns Main Street West Art Gallery and Autowerks automotive repair with her husband, Tom, the timing isn't as bad as it could be.

"I'm about at the point where I need to get everything done," Puckett said. "Invoices cost me between $300 and $500, and business cards another $200."

Puckett also pointed out that "a lot of people are doing invoices on computers," which will not involve an added expense.

While Tom Waldron, owner of E&J Florist on Main Street, wasn't sure how much he would have to spend to change over to the 928 area code, he said it would be substantial.

"It's not just business cards, which I just had reprinted, but my phone number will be wrong in the phone book. I'll have to notify my suppliers, too," he said.

Judy Miller, coordinator of the Eastern Arizona College-Payson Small Business Development Center said the important thing to remember is that we have 10 months to make the switch.

"If people will just keep the change in mind and then have things reprinted gradually as they run out, it won't be that big a deal," she said. "We have to understand that Tucson carries a lot more weight than the rest of us. Basically Arizona is comprised of three states, Maricopa County, Pima County and the rest of us."

According to the numbering plan administrator, the new code will last for 12 to 14 years before another geographic split will be necessary.

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