Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

March 21, 2013

812 area code running out of numbers

Jenni Hanna
Greensburg Daily News

Greensburg — The 812 area code is running out of numbers.

The code, which serves the southern third of Indiana, is projected to run out of numeric combinations during the second quarter of 2015.

It’s easy to see how this is happening when you consider how today’s family has evolved. It used to be that a single family home was associated with a single land line. So a family of four would have just one number. Today, that same family of four could easily have multiple numbers dedicated to it, from a landline to respective personal cell numbers, to any work cell phone numbers.

According to the Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor, in the early 2000s, industry forecasts predicted that the 812 area code combinations would run out by 2004. Conservation efforts were implemented, however, and the 812 lifeline was prolonged—but only for a couple of more years.

As a result of the impending shortage, the telecommunications industry has formally asked the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) to add a new area code to the region currently using 812. In its formal petition, the telecommunications industry is seeking an ‘overlay’ for the entire 812 area. According to the Indiana.gov website, an ‘overlay’ is a “method of adding a new telephone area code to a region that allows all existing customers to keep their current numbers. New telephone numbers in the area could either be assigned with the old 812 code or with the new code.” In other words:

* All existing numbers in the 812 area would be unaffected/unchanged.

* Making local calls would be a little more work.  Customers would have to dial ten digits (area code + number).  Local calling areas would not change.

* Toll calls continue to use eleven digits (1+area code+number).

* Businesses, non-profit organizations, and other customers would not need to reprint signage, stationery, advertising or business cards, as their current numbers would remain intact.

* Consumers would not need to reprogram cell phones, fax machines, etc. with new numbers.

The overlay is not a new concept. Since the late 1990s, 22 states have implemented area code overlays or are in the process of doing so. Previously when the state of Indiana added a new area code, it did so using a geographic split. The split meant the area code was divided into two or more regions, and only one of the regions kept the existing area code. The other region(s) received a new area code, requiring customers to print new signage, re-program stored numbers, etc., due to the newly assigned numbers.

As IURC considers the formal petition to overlay the 812 area code, the organization is seeking public feedback. Public hearings in the larger cities of the 812 region have already taken place. The remaining meetings, including those closest to Southeastern Indiana, will be held on Monday, April 1 in French Lick; Tuesday, April 2 in St. Meinrad; Wednesday, April 10 in North Vernon; and Thursday, May 2 in St. Leon.

Regardless of how a new area code is implemented, the IURC website stresses that those items that will be unaffected by any change or decision include: calls to 911, 811 and 211; long distance telephone rates;  local telephone rates; and local (free) calling area boundaries.

A decision on the case is expected in the second half of 2013. Following the decision, the new area code would then be phased in over a 12 month period. The first six months of the process allows for customer education and network preparation.

The second six months will be a “grace period”, encouraging consumers to use the new format of numbers, although the old numbers would continue to work temporarily. At the end of the grace period, mandatory use of the new area codes would take effect.

For additional information about the pending 812 area code changes, visit www.in.gov/oucc.