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Could 607 Become 845?

By Dan Hust
ROSCOE — May 25, 2001 – Roscoe residents’ and local officials’ persistence in petitioning the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) to change the local area code might be finally paying off.
Sullivan County Assistant County Attorney Cheryl McCausland, a former Roscoe resident who was asked to look into the matter by the County Legislature, announced last week that the PSC has agreed to review the request of locals to change Roscoe’s 607 area code to the one which now serves the rest of Sullivan County: 845.
“We’ve won one of the battles,” McCausland said this week.
But, according to PSC spokesperson Edward Collins, this move may be less of a battle and more of an exploration into uncharted waters.
“With regard to a request like this,” he said yesterday, “this probably would be the first of its kind. I don’t think there’s ever been a situation exactly like this [in the PSC’s 94-year history].”
What Roscoe residents – and especially businesspeople – have been requesting is simply a change from 607 to 845, and before it was 845, from 607 to 914. But apparently there’s nothing simple about it.
The campaign gained strength when the PSC announced two years ago that Sullivan County would be part of the switchover from 914 to 845. Roscoe real estate agent Sandy Stone began a petition drive to have the PSC include the only section of the county outside 914 – Roscoe and surrounding areas – be incorporated into the change to 845.
The PSC, claiming it was an FCC matter, sent those concerned to the federal level, but the FCC said it was a PSC decision and sent them back. Meanwhile, the area code switch occurred – and Roscoe remains in 607, which primarily serves Delaware, Otsego, Chenango and Broome counties.
Thus, as has been the case since area codes were first assigned (and Roscoe’s Delaware County-based phone company decided to be part of 607), Roscoe residents and businesses have phone numbers that begin with 607 and have a prefix of 498, which both must be dialed by anyone calling from 845, even if it’s just down the road, like Livingston Manor.
Likewise, those same residents and businesses must make a long-distance call to friends, family, neighbors – even county government. The Town of Rockland, which straddles both area codes, has a costly 800 number just to allow residents to contact local officials without incurring charges.
And according to McCausland, this has all had a bad effect on business.
“I used to live there,” she said. “I was very aware of the problems.
“There’s definitely a difference in attitude with people [from the NYC area] who need to call the 607 area code,” she explained. “607 has a connotation to it that it is farther upstate.”
Thus, she said, people are less inclined to travel or do business in Roscoe as opposed to the rest of the county. (845 stretches down to Rockland County.)
“It does cost a lot of people,” she said. “And they [residents] seem to be concerned that they’ve been segregated out of Sullivan County.”
However, McCausland cautioned that, according to her understanding, a rate change is a business decision on the part of the private phone companies which serve the area – in this case, Verizon in 845 and Citizens in 607.
Thus, even if the PSC agrees to include Roscoe in the 845 area code, there may still be long-distance charges incurred for a call from Roscoe to Livingston Manor, barely seven miles down the road.
However, said Collins, the PSC is not even close to making a decision yet. They first need to formulate a policy to deal with this unusual and apparently unique situation.
“The staff now has to develop a procedure for this review,” he said. “And one of the primary issues here is jurisdiction between the FCC and the PSC. From the staff’s perspective, the FCC does have a role in this.”
Once a proposal is created (and completion time is anyone’s guess, indicated Collins), it will be presented to the PSC as a whole for discussion.
Involved staff members, who will begin this process immediately, come from the departments of communications, counsel and consumer education and advocacy, said Collins. And there’ll be another group involved, too, he explained.
“Obviously, there will be public input,” he said.
How and when is yet to be determined, Collins commented.
For McCausland and numerous Roscoe residents, that’s evidently good news – but much work remains.
“Appearancewise, I think [an area code change] would be very helpful,” said McCausland. “The financial aspect of it, though . . . is the second [stage].”

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