News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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May 17, 2013

Overlay recommended for 812 area code

Old area code running out of phone numbers

TERRE HAUTE — The state agency that represents Hoosier utility customers is calling for a ten-digit solution to southern Indiana’s vanishing supply of 812 area code telephone numbers.

The Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor (OUCC) favors an “overlay” solution to the lack of new, available, 812 numbers, the agency announced Thursday.

The final decision on the matter lies with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission, a five-member body appointed by the governor.

If the IURC take the OUCC’s advice, beginning in 2015, folks living in the 812 area code will need to dial ten-digits even when making local phone calls. That’s because, beginning that year, new area codes would begin to be issued in the 812 region, meaning even neighbors could have different area codes.

An alternative to the “overlay” solution would be to split the 812 area code, which covers most of southern Indiana, into different geographic regions with different area codes. The OUCC rejected that option.

The IURC is expected to make its decision by the end of this year.

“There’s no perfect solution here,” said Anthony Swinger, a spokesman for the OUCC, which is in Indianapolis. “Whether you go with a split or you go with an overlay, it’s going to be inconvenient.”

But, thanks to the explosion in cell phone ownership in the past five- to ten years, the overlay seems like the less inconvenient solution of the two, Swinger said. These days, people often move across country and retain their old phone numbers or simply press a button on their “contact lists” to make calls, he noted.

The overlay solution “goes hand-in-hand with the evolution of the technology,” Swinger said.

The OUCC, in the past several months, has conducted meetings across Indiana seeking public input about how to deal with the diminishing supply of 812 numbers. Among business customers, support has been overwhelming for the overlay solution, Swinger said. Among residential customers, the overlay also had a majority of support, he said.

Local calling areas will not change if an overlay is adopted, according to the OUCC. Calls that are currently local calls will remain local calls.

The IURC is expected to make its final decision by the end of this year.

Indiana’s 812 area code is the last of the state’s original three area codes to run out of new numbers. The 317 and 219 area codes ran out years earlier and in both of those cases the geographic split solution was used.

The 812 area code is projected to exhaust its supply of numbers in 2015.

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or arthur.foulkes@tribstar.com

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