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PRC OKs New 575 Area Code for Southern, Eastern N.M.

By Barry Massey/
Associated Press
      SANTA FE — Telephone customers in Las Cruces, Clovis, Portales and other communities in eastern and southern New Mexico will switch to a new 575 area code under a plan approved today by state utility regulators.
    The Public Regulation Commission approved a geographic split for adding a second area, which is expected to start being implemented in 2008.
    Portions of the state keeping the current 505 area code include Albuquerque, Farmington, Santa Fe, Los Alamos, Las Vegas, Moriarty, Mountainair, Los Lunas, Belen, Gallup, Grants and most of the state's northwestern quadrant.
    The remainder of the state will switch to the new 575 area code. That's a larger geographic area, stretching from the Colorado border in the north — communities such as Raton, Chama and Dulce — to the south and west, including Hobbs, Roswell, Carlsbad, Ruidoso, Sunland Park, Deming, Lordsburg, Silver City, Alamogordo, Socorro, Reserve, Magdalena and Quemado.
    There will be a yearlong transition period before use of the 575 area code becomes mandatory starting in 2009.
    The state needed a second area code because it's projected to run out of number combinations in 505 in 2009 as people and businesses demand more telecommunications services, ranging second telephone lines to cellular phones.
    The commission's vote generally reflected the geographical makeup — partly an urban-rural division — of districts represented by the five commissioners.
    Commissioners Jason Marks of Albuquerque, Lynda Lovejoy of Crownpoint and chairman Ben R. Lujan of Santa Fe voted to use 505 in what was called ''area B'' — the Santa Fe-Albuquerque and northwestern sections of New Mexico.
    Commissioners David King of Alamogordo and E. Shirley Baca of Las Cruces voted to keep 505 in the southern and eastern parts of New Mexico, what was called ''area A.''
    Under the plan approved, the new 575 area code should last another 34 years before telephone number combinations will be exhausted. The 505 area code has a projected lifetime of 19 years before yet another area code — potentially a four-digit number — will be needed.
    Marks contended that the Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Farmington region should retain the 505 area code because it has more residential and business telephone customers — two-thirds of business lines and about 56 percent of residential lines.
    ''There are people who are going to be inconvenienced but I think this is the way we minimize that inconvenience,'' said Marks.
    But Baca said it made more sense to keep 505 in the larger geographic area in the south because it will last longer. She said the state's largest population center will eventually need a second area code because of growth so it should switch now to a new number.
    ''Like it or not, the Albuquerque area is going to be getting other area codes ... just like Denver did, just like Phoenix did,'' said Baca.
    Initially when the 575 area code is implemented in 2008, either 575 or 505 will work for people dialing into communities such as Las Cruces. During part of the transition, people calling into the new area code will get a recorded message informing them of the 575 switch. At some point, they will be required to hang up and redial using the 575.
    Then in 2009 — the exact timetable is still being worked out — the change will be fully implemented and callers must dial 575 if an area code is needed.
   
   


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