The 812 area code, established when North America’s telephone numbering system went into effect in 1947, is running short of numbers. Forecasts call for that to happen in the first half of 2015.
The projected shortage is being caused by population and business growth and greater demand for cell phones. The 812 area code is Indiana’s largest by geography, covering the southern third of the state including cities such as Columbus, Bloomington, Terre Haute, Seymour and Evansville.
To make more seven-digit phone numbers available, state regulators will chose from two types of options:
Splitting the geographic area into two or more three-digit zones, either north-south or east-west.
Overlaying a new three-digit area code over the existing boundaries of the 812 area code.
In an overlay, all existing telephone numbers stay the same, including the existing area code. But new numbers within that same geography would be assigned to a new area code.
In dialing, all customers — in the old area code and new one — would need to enter 10 digits for all local calls. Since 2005, 43 new area codes have been implemented in North America. All but two have been implemented as overlays.
In a split, an additional cost is incurred when business customers assigned to the new area code, for example, must change their phone number on business cards, in telephone directories and in other marketing tools.
But with that option, callers can continue to dial just seven digits for local calls, and that approach retains a geographic identify for the area codes. Before 2005, most new area codes were implemented using a geographic split, with an existing area code divided into two or more regions.
The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission, the state agency that handles utility matters, has scheduled a hearing for next summer on the matter, although the agency also will hold public hearings in early 2013 in yet-to-be-determined locations.
The telecommunications industry on Sept. 7 petitioned the IURC to implement an overlay.
Indiana last dealt with the issue in 2002, when IURC split the 219 area code in northern Indiana into three area codes, adding the new 260 and 574 codes.
At the time, the industry, as now, favored an overlay, but consumers preferred a split. In 1996, the 765 area code was created in central Indiana, split apart from the 317 area code that now covers Indianapolis and its suburbs.
Indiana will have to revisit the issue soon for the 317 area code, which is expected to run out of numbers in early 2016.
The number of unassigned area codes in North America is expected to last until 2042.
Have your say
Consumers can provide input at the hearings and by submitting written comments via:
Comments should include the consumer’s name, mailing address, and a reference to IURC Cause No. 44233.
Split or overlay?
The 812 area code is projected to run out of numbers in 2015, and state regulators are expected to address the number shortage with one of two main options: 1. Splitting the geographic area into two or more three-digit codes and 2. Overlaying a second three-digit area code over the existing 812 area.
Avoids the possibility that consumers with two or more phone numbers may be assigned two different area codes.
Source: Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission
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