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812 phone numbers about to run out after 70 years


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Just for fun or perhaps practice, starting Saturday you can dial a 10-digit phone number including area code to make local calls.

Six months later, mandatory 10-digit local dialing in the 812 area code goes into effect — even if you’re calling your next-door neighbor.

And a month after that, get ready for the 930 area code, which will be assigned to new telephone customers in Columbus, Seymour and other cities currently covered in the 812 area code.

If a new neighbor moving in after October is initiating new telephone service, that phone line may be assigned to a different area code.

It’s a numbers game, plain and simple.

The first major change in the 812 area code in its nearly 70-year existence has been caused by a run on the numbers.

The new area code was requested by the telecommunications industry because the supply of available 812 telephone numbers is expected to be exhausted during the second quarter of 2015.

The change stems from last year’s Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission decision establishing a new 930 area code overlay of the existing 812 area code, which has served all of southern Indiana since it was put in service on Jan. 1, 1947, shortly after the end of World War II.

A six-month transition period begins Saturday to allow people to get used to the idea of dialing 10 digits when making a local call. During the transition period, callers can dial either the seven-digit number or the 10-digit one, including the area code.

However, when dialing long distance, such as between Columbus and Seymour, a “1” at the beginning is still needed, as it always was.

Once Sept. 6 arrives, people attempting a phone call without first dialing the area code will receive an error message, and the call will not go through, said Danielle McGrath, a spokeswoman with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission.

She said telephone service providers can begin purchasing blocks of 930 area code numbers April 7. However, they can’t start assigning those numbers until Oct. 6. After that time, anyone making a call in southern Indiana will have to know which area code to use.

Anticipating problems

Implementing the 930 area code might have implications for large users of telephones.

For instance, Jackson County recently spent $150,000 to replace telephone systems at the courthouse and courthouse annex in Brownstown and Jackson Superior Court I in Seymour.

The county has a block of 110 telephones numbers with the 812 area code available for use in Brownstown, and another block of 30 numbers in the same area code for use in Seymour, said Jeff Hubbard, the county’s human resource manager.

“We have three or four numbers that are not being used right now,” Hubbard said.

A proposal to expand or build a new structure to house Jackson Superior Court II and other offices in Brownstown could mean the need for new telephone lines in the coming years.

“That could be a problem,” Hubbard said.

If there were no 812 numbers left, it would result in employees in the same county offices having telephones with different area codes.

But the utility industry’s McGrath said telecommunications providers likely will have 812 numbers available for consumers for a while.

“They buy them in blocks, and it’s up to the provider how they assign them,” McGrath said of new telephone numbers.

She said a residential customer wishing to add a new line might have the option of receiving an 812 number.

“They will have to work with their provider,” McGrath said.

Avoiding ‘winners and losers’

Mike Jamerson, director of technology for Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp., said he has been looking at the impact implementation of the new 930 area code might have on the district, specifically its automated alert system, and thinks there will be little if any change.

The school corporation already requires a 10-digit number from anyone wishing to receive text alerts about school closings, early dismissals, delays and emergency announcements, Jamerson said.

He said because Bartholomew County is on the northern edge of the 812 area code, some parents and others requesting text alerts have telephones they’ve purchased from outside the 812 area code. There are also a number of people who have moved into the area and have chosen to keep their existing number and area code.

Jamerson said the overlay system beats the alternative, a geographic split.

“That creates winners and losers,” he said.

He said he went through that a number of times while living in Chicago.

“It’s not fun,” he said.

Many baby boomers can remember a time when they had to memorize only a four-digit number and the exchange where they lived, Jamerson said.

That was before fax machines and dial-up computer service, followed by cellphones and tablets, which utilize SIM (subscriber identify module) cards to access provider data plans.

Transition time

One area utility got a head start on the rest of us.

Mark McKinney, projects manager for Jackson County REMC, said the member-owned cooperative recently installed a new phone system, and the contractor made them aware of the addition of the new 930 area code this year and the need for 10-digit dialing.

The cooperative, which serves about 20,000 customers in portions of 10 counties including Bartholomew, Brown, Jackson and Jennings, decided to use an option requiring anyone making a call from its headquarters in Brownstown to dial the area code and number.

“We just wanted to give everyone time to get used to the change,” McKinney said.

Barbara McAlister, 65, of Madison said she was not even aware there was going to be a new area code put in place this year, but she didn’t think it would be an issue.

“I can add it (the area code) when I put a number in my cellphone,” she said.

McAlister, who was in Columbus for a family outing, said she preferred the overlay system to the geographic split system because that would have required some people in the present 812 area code to notify all their family and friends of the change.

Joe Jahrries of Columbus said he had read about the new area code and knew it was coming.

“But I didn’t know we were going to have to start dialing more numbers,” the 45-year-old said.

But he said he’s not opposed to the idea.

“It’s not going to be that much harder to dial three more numbers,” he said. “And it’s bound to help businesses.”

That’s a reference to that fact some businesses would have had to change their stationery and signage and probably advertised those changes more if the 812 area code had been split into geographic halves.

Business advocates in the 812 area code pressed for the overlap option.

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