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Jennings Sunday: Phone options focus of event


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NORTH VERNON — People who live in the 812 telephone area code will have a chance to share their opinions Wednesday in North Vernon on how the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission should respond to a looming shortage of phone numbers.

More than 35 states including Indiana have had to add new area codes over the past two decades due to an expanding number of wireless phones, pagers and other technological advances. Since the 812 area code is running low on available numbers, an additional three-digit code will have to be designated for southern Indiana.

Representatives of the Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor will outline the situation, options and other details at 5:30 p.m. in the Jennings County Middle School auditorium, 820 W. Walnut St. Then, at 6 p.m., the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission will listen to public comments.

 

While the IURC commissioners will not answer questions Wednesday, they will have staff members available to address public concerns.

With two options to choose from, the IURC is expected to decide by year’s end whether to use the overlay or geographical-split method.

If the overlay method is

chosen:

  • Ten-digits (area code and number) would have to be used for all local calls.
  • Those with 812 numbers would keep their current telephone numbers.
  • Local calling areas and rates would not change.
  • Businesses, nonprofit organizations and other customers would not need to reprint signage, stationery, advertising or business cards due to the change.

The overlay method has been the most commonly used option for area code relief since 2005 and is being implemented in western Kentucky to relieve the 270 area code.

The telecommunications industry has filed testimony requesting use of the overlay method.

If a geographic split is used:

  • Seven-digit dialing would continue for local calls.
  • Part of the existing 812 area would keep their current numbers, while those in the new district would be required to switch to numbers with the new area code.
  • Many businesses, nonprofit organizations and other customers would need to reprint signage, stationery, advertising and/or business cards and would incur the costs of doing so.

The geographic split method was the most commonly used option before 2005. In Indiana, it was used to provide relief to the 317 area code (central Indiana) in 1996 and the 219 area code (northwest Indiana) in 2001.

Regardless of which option is used, the IURC emphasized three things will not change:

The new area code will be gradually implemented, with a grace period of several months to allow Hoosiers to adjust to the changes.

Local calling areas and telephone rates will not change as a result of the new area code. Calls that are currently free will remain free.

Calls to 911, 811 and 211 will not be affected.

Wednesday’s meeting in North Vernon is one of 10 field hearings being held throughout the 812 area this month.

Those unable to attend the hearing may submit written comments to the Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor until May 7.

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