People in the 812 area code will have more time to adjust to a new requirement to include the area code when making local calls.
The requirement to punch in all 10 digits when making local calls was to be effective Sept. 6. Instead, the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission is postponing the 10-digit-calling requirement indefinitely.
The change means callers can continue using seven-digit numbers without the area code on local calls.
During the changeover period, callers may continue to use the seven-digit number on local calls or may include the area code and the seven-digit number to connect to a local number.
The changes are planned because a new 930 area code will be assigned to new telephone customers in Columbus, Seymour and other cities currently covered by the 812 area code beginning Oct. 6, according to the commission.
The additional area code is necessary to accommodate the increased number of phone lines being used with the 812 area code.
When the change, called an all-services distributed overlay, goes into effect, those dialing a number in the 812 or 930 area codes will be required to dial all 10 digits for local calls, to differentiate between the two area codes.
When calling long distance using land lines from the 812 area code, such as from Columbus to Seymour, a “1” still will be required preceding the area code.
The 10-digit deadline was extended because critical segments of the business community and telecommunications providers are behind in preparing for the switch, said Natalie Derrickson, media contact for the commission.
Concerns were expressed by businesses serving the medical and law enforcement communities and by telecommunications providers, she said.
“A gentleman with an alarm company in southern Indiana contacted the governor’s office because he has several customers with equipment that, as it was currently set up, is only able to accommodate seven-digit dialing,” Derrickson said. “That started the conversation; and in order to make sure all businesses can operate as usual, we decided to extend this.”
Danny Koester, who owns ABK Alarms in Evansville, said he was among those who asked for more time to accommodate the switch.
Koester has been in business for 30 years, providing home security, medical alarms for seniors and other services that use phone-based systems for notification. He said his call center handles between 1.6 million and 1.8 million calls per year.
“Our security system is older and locally monitored,” Koester said. “We are having to physically call every one of our customers up, send people to their homes and reprogram equipment — and that is a lot of equipment.”
When the process began in March, Koester said some telephone companies also were not prepared to convert to 10-digit dialing.
“We have thrown multiple people from our other companies onto this and stopped all new installation for customers to try to meet these deadlines,” Koester said. “(The delay) was great news, and I am grateful to the commission for this decision.”
The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission has scheduled a technical conference Sept. 3 in Indianapolis to discuss issues raised by adding the 930 area code.
Derrickson said the commission hopes to establish a new timetable at the conference to change to 10-digit dialing on local calls for the 812 area code.