OMAHA, Nebraska — It'll probably be at least four more years before Nebraska's new 531 area code makes its debut, years later than originally forecast.
Communications manager Gene Hand of the Nebraska Public Service Commission told the Lincoln Journal Star (http://bit.ly/MBhgIM ) that the state hasn't gotten to its trigger for employing the 531 area code, when there's 10 prefixes remaining for use in the 402 area. That's expected to be at least four years away.
In February 2011 the PSC said eastern and central Nebraska phone users would have to use 402 and the seven-digit phone number for local calls and punch 1 and the other 10 digits for long-distance calls. The change was imposed in anticipation of starting up the 531 area code, which would be added to the 402 area and probably would be in use within a year. The rest of the state was to remain in the 308 area.
Customers griped about the hassle of pushing extra buttons, officials said, but apparently have gotten over it.
"Very few people complain to me anymore," Hand said.
The demand for new phone numbers has ebbed, however, as fewer and fewer people become first-time cellphone customers. In addition, telephone companies and the PSC have used numbers more judiciously, so the blocks of 10,000 numbers assigned to companies last longer.
Consequently, the number of remaining prefixes has been reduced slower than anticipated. In 2012, for example, companies used only six new prefixes, leaving 26 available in 2013. In 2013 just three more prefixes were put into use, leaving 23 — 13 more than the 531 trigger figure of 10.
Last year officials predicted 531 would be in use by 2016. Now the prediction is for deployment in 2018 — six years later than the original prediction of 2012.
Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, http://www.journalstar.com