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What’s your area code going to be?


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State regulators will conduct hearings beginning in early March to seek input from the public about what to do when the 812 area code runs out of numbers.

The closest hearing to Columbus will be in North Vernon, although consumers can provide input by other means, including mail or online.

The 812 area code, established when North America’s telephone numbering system went into effect in 1947, is projected to run out of numbers in the first half of 2015.

The projected shortage is being caused by population and business growth and greater demand for cellphones. The 812 area code is Indiana’s largest in area, 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 options:

Splitting the geographic area into two or more three-digit zones.

Overlaying a new three-digit area code over the existing boundaries of the 812 area code.

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.

In a north-south split, for example, Columbus still would share an area code with Bloomington and Terre Haute but would have a different one from New Albany and Evansville. In an east-west split, Columbus would continue to share an area code with Bloomington and New Albany but have a different one from Terre Haute and Evansville.

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, the vast majority of the more than 40 new area codes that have been implemented in North America were overlays.

The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission, the state agency that handles utility matters, has scheduled hearings to present information and allow the public to ask questions and provide input. Hearings will begin March 3 in Terre Haute and finish May 2 in St. Leon.

The closest hearing to Columbus will be at Jennings County Middle School at 6 p.m. April 10. Consumers can just listen to the presentation, or they can ask questions and provide input. No registration is necessary.

Ways to be heard

The 812 area code is projected to run out of numbers in 2015. State regulators are seeking input about how to address the challenge. The primary options include either a geographic split, where Columbus would get a different area code from Evansville, for example, and residents and businesses in one of the areas would have to change area codes; or an overlay, in which new numbers in the 812 area would receive a different area code, and all consumers in that area would have to dial the area code even for local calls.

More information: in.gov/iurc/2703.htm.

Consumers can provide input to the Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor, a state-funded consumer advocate. Commenters should specify the case by including the case number (44233), their mailing address and daytime phone number. You can provide input by May 7 via:

The OUCC website: in.gov/oucc/2361.htm.

Email, uccinfo@oucc.IN.gov

Fax, 317-232-5923

Mail, Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor, PNC Center, 115 W. Washington St., Suite 1500 South, Indianapolis, IN 46204.

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