OLYMPIA, Wash. - The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission said today that telecommunication companies will have at least four more years to assign customers phone numbers using the 360 area code, avoiding the need for a new area code and mandatory10-digit local dialing.

The UTC has worked cooperatively with telecommunications companies to identify and set aside unused phone numbers in the 360 area so the existing stock of 360 phone numbers - once expected to run out in 2010 - will last until at least 2012.

UTC Chairman Mark Sidran said introducing new area codes is disruptive and costly to residents and businesses and 10-digit dialing is inconvenient.

"We commend the companies for working with us to conserve the existing supply of 360 phone numbers, delaying a new area code as long as possible," he said.

After all the 360 phone numbers are used, a new area code may be "overlaid" across all of Western Washington and assigned to all new phone numbers in the western half of the state. Customers would then be required to dial 10 digits for all calls, including local.

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