(Florida Keys Keynoter (Marathon, FL) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) July 12--The numbers are running out, and so are the days when Florida Keys residents can be assured of a 305 area code.
Also going into the dust pile: The days of dialing seven-digit telephone numbers within Monroe County.
A countdown to issuing 786 area codes for new phone numbers in the Keys started ticking Thursday when the Florida Public Service Commission approved an extension of the 786 code from Miami-Dade County into Monroe.
"There's just not enough numbers. Things down there are getting in bad shape," said Dick Durbin, a PSC spokesman.
Mandatory 10-digit dialing (area code plus regular phone number) becomes mandatory, even for neighborhood calls within the Keys, on April 18, 2015.
Next June, new telephone numbers beginning with the 786 area code will start being issued to Keys homes and businesses seeking new telephone lines.
"We're all used to 305 and reluctant to see a change like this," said Ryan Elwell, manager of Royal Furniture and the Greater Marathon Chamber of Commerce's chairman-elect.
"But unfortunately, it was going to happen at some point," said Elwell, a Keys native who has always been a 305. "I'll always be a 305 inside."
All telephone lines now having a 305 area code will keep them. But if next year you get a second phone line at the same building, it will be a 786.
The 305 area code has become slang for South Florida, and inspired singer Pitbull's 2004 song "305 Anthem" that declares "305 till I die!"
"An additional area code is needed because of the Keys' growing population and the increased use of multiple phones, especially wireless," PSC Chairman Art Graham said in a prepared statement. "Residents will keep their existing number, especially important to businesses and their customers."
Florida Keys residents have battled successfully for more than a decade to preserve local seven-digit dialing.
The state planned to expand the 786 area code, now used along with 305 in Miami-Dade County, into the Keys by 2001. That would have triggered 10-digit dialing then.
Residents complained, and the PSC paid attention.
In a 2000 hearing in Key West, "Witnesses stressed that the primary economic interest in the Keys region is tourism, which they described as 'fragile,' and they believe that it is 'most important' to keep the 305 code as long as possible in order for the visiting public to 'reach us,'" says a PSC background report.
In 2005, the PSC agreed to delay the Keys' area-code expansion "for as long as possible," but expected it to change by 2009.
"They thought it was going to run out years ago," Durbin said. "A lot of [mobile phone
companies] got big blocks of telephone numbers to assign but many of them went out of business. That's one reason we've been able to hold off for so long."
Now the cache of 305 numbers -- about 7.92 million of them -- is expected to run dry by the spring of 2015, according to the North American Numbering Plan Administration, the agency that oversees such things.
On the upside, notes the PSC, the letters for 786 spell out: SUN.
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