(Dispatch, The (Lexington, NC) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Aug. 22--According to the utilities commission decision, when telephone numbers in the 336 area code run out, new telephone numbers will be assigned the 743 area code. People within the 336 area code will keep their existing numbers for their homes, businesses and cellphones.
Buck Moye, a utility engineer for the North Carolina Utilities Commission Public Staff in Raleigh, said the overlay offers the best of the possible scenarios considered by the commission to address the available numbers in the 336 area code running out.
"It is the least disruptive of the plans considered," Moye said. "The NANPA (North American Numbering Plan Administrator) will file a planning schedule on how this will be handled within 90 days. They will set up a time line with the commission, including things like permissive dialing, which allows both seven-digit and 10-digit dialing, before going down the steps to mandatory 10-digit dialing."
Scott Morris, spokesman for local communication provider Windstream, said the new area code and 10-digit dialing should have a minimal impact on existing customers and will not affect billing.
"The 10-digit dialing will still be a local call," Morris said. "There will be no change in billing. Some alarm systems and automatic operator systems may need to be reset, but existing numbers will not change. Customers should know that we will be in communication with them through bill messages and other venues. They will have ample opportunity to adjust to the changes."
In 2013, the NANPA, Neustar, notified the utilities commission that the 336 numbering plan area code is projected to be exhausted by 2016. Representatives from Neustar recommended a "distributed overlay" as the relief plan for the 336 area code. Under the recommended plan, a new area code would be assigned to cover or "overlay" the entire geographic area using the existing 336 area code boundary lines.
According to the utilities commission, one of the advantages of using an overlay relief plan is existing subscribers would not have to change area codes or telephone numbers. The main disadvantage of the overlay relief plan is all local calls using seven digits will have to be dialed using 10 digits. Another option under consideration was variations of a "geographic split" relief plan where the area covered by the 336 area code would be split into two parts causing half of existing customers to change phone numbers with the new area code.
Moye said the implementation of the new area code and 10-digit dialing can take anywhere from six to nine months. He also said there will be many public notices including bill inserts before the new regulations take place. One of the reasons the overlay and 10-digit dialing were needed was because of the increase in numbers being used, especially with the popularity of cell phones.
"We try not to get it to the point where it (the area code) is exhausted," Moye said. "We are trying to extend the number of numbers available. If you have a family with two parents and two kids, that's four (numbers), and if they have a home phone that's five. We haven't really had a lot of complaints about overlays, not as many as if you would have a split where you would have to change your number."
Sharon Myers can be reached at 249-3981, ext, 228 or at email@example.com. Follow Sharon on Twitter: @LexDisptachSM
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