Montana is one of only twelve states with a single area code.
The Public Service Commission announced today Montana will stay in that exclusive club through at least 2031.
That wasn’t always a given.
Montana’s growing population and explosive growth in cell phone subscriptions had the state on track to outgrow its lone ‘406’ area code by 2019.
“It’s simply a matter of numbers. There are ‘x’ number of phone numbers that can be assigned to a particular area code," says PSC Chairman Brad Johnson. "A lot of other states have simply outgrown that and had to go to other area codes in order to continue to assign unique numbers.”
A 2013 PSC order required telecom companies to free-up millions of additional phone numbers that weren’t being used.
The Federal Communications Commission this week gave Montana its permission to act on that order. So, why the fuss over an area code?
“Except it isn’t just an area code. It’s part of our identity just like ‘Big Sky Country’ is," Johnson says. "There’s a tremendous amount of interest and appreciation on the part of Montanans for having that part of our identity preserved.”
No guarantees Montana will maintain its status as a single area code state in perpetuity, but Johnson says the PSC will do what it can to hang on to that lone ‘406’ for as long as possible.