HARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) today approved the plan for implementing a 2-1-1 abbreviated dialing system for access to the state’s Information and Referral Services notification system. The Commission voted 5-0 to approve the United Way of Pennsylvania’s petition, thereby designating PA 2-1-1 as the lead implementing agency of the 2-1-1 abbreviated dialing code for providing information and referral services in Pennsylvania. In 2006, the United Way of Pennsylvania (UWP) and the Pennsylvania Association for Information & Referral (PAIR) joined forces and established a taskforce called the Pennsylvania 2-1-1 Collaborative that was made up of representatives from across Pennsylvania. In 2009, PA 2-1-1 was formed as an independently incorporated Pennsylvania not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing all Pennsylvanians with access to non-emergency community information and referral services. In a statement, Vice Chairman Tyrone J. Christy said, “The implementation of a 2-1-1 system in Pennsylvania is an important step toward more effectively coordinating our government-related services by providing a single phone number that individuals may call when they are seeking information about assistance in paying their utility bills and weatherization services, as well as information on unemployment compensation, food banks, educational seminars, and other available services. I believe the coordination that will be achieved through 2-1-1 will coincide with and further enhance our efforts to coordinate the various utility assistance programs that exist in Pennsylvania. ” Within 20 days of the entry of the order, all jurisdictional local exchange carriers in Pennsylvania, if they have not already done so, are to immediately discontinue using the 2-1-1 abbreviated dialing code for purposes other than access to community information and referral services. On July 21, 2000, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ruled that the 2-1-1 abbreviated dialing code should be used as a universally and easily recognizable number that would make it possible for callers in need to make critical connections with appropriate community-based organizations and government agencies more easily accessible. The FCC, acting on a petition filed in 1998 by the United Way of America, the Alliance of Information and Referral Services (AIRS) and several other partners, assigned the 2-1-1 abbreviated dialing code as the universal telephone number for non-emergency community information and referral services. The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission balances the needs of consumers and utilities to ensure safe and reliable utility service at reasonable rates; protect the public interest; educate consumers to make independent and informed utility choices; further economic development; and foster new technologies and competitive markets in an environmentally sound manner.