New area code "overlay" approved for western Kentucky
Dec 21, 2012 (Grayson County News-Gazette - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
In a little more than a year, calling your neighbor will involve dialing 10 digits.
On Monday, Dec. 17, the Kentucky Public Service Commission announced that it would be using an "overlay" option for a new area code in western Kentucky, a move that will require dialing an area code for local calls beginning in 2014.
In the overlay option, both the current 270 and new 364 area codes will be used throughout the western portion of the state at the same time. It will be the first area code in Kentucky created by an overlay.
The PSC chose the option because it was the least disruptive for all customers and imposes the smallest cost on businesses in the area.
"This decision means that everyone who now has an area code 270 phone number can keep that number," PSC chairman David Armstrong said. "The only thing that will change is that 10-digit dialing will be required for local calls beginning in early 2014."
With more than a year until final implementation, there will be ample time for a smooth transition that will allow everyone to become familiar with the new dialing rules, Armstrong said.
The PSC noted in its order that public comments received in the case overwhelmingly favored an overlay. The other option was to split area code 270 and designate a portion as area code 364, with both landline and wireless customers in the affected portion required to change their area code as a result.
"Public opinion has shifted dramatically in the six years since the PSC last considered this matter," Armstrong said. "It appears that the public is much less concerned about 10-digit dialing than about the possibility of having to change phone numbers."
In selecting an overlay, the PSC noted that it has become the preferred method for creating new area codes. Overlays pose the fewest technical issues for implementation by an increasing complex telecommunication industry, and have been used for all but one of the last 24 area codes created nationwide.
The PSC was formally notified in April of the need for a new area code by the North American Numbering Plan Administrator (NANPA), the agency that distributes blocks of phone numbers to providers and tracks number exhaustion in area codes.
NANPA originally said a new area code would be needed in early 2015, but later revised that projection to early 2014.
"The need for a new area code is driven largely by demand for new numbers associated with wireless devices, but also is suggestive of increasing economic activity," Armstrong said. "As such, it is a positive development."
The PSC order sets up an implementation schedule that calls for telecommunication providers to begin preparing their networks for the change no later than Feb. 2, 2013. They're also required to prepare customer education plans, submit them to the PSC by mid-February and begin implementing those plans in February as well.
A permissive dialing period will begin on Aug. 3, 2013. During that time, calls may be made using either the current seven-digit dialing rules or the new 10-digit dialing rules. It is intended both as a transition period for consumers and a chance for private phone systems to be tested and reprogrammed for the changes. Mandatory 10-digit local dialing will go into effect on Feb. 1, 2014.
The first numbers using area code 364 may be assigned beginning in March 2014. Area code 270 numbers can still be assigned after that date, but their availability will depend on how many remain in the inventory of each individual service provider.
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