The state wants to know what you think about a potential area code change. While the region takes up central and southeastern Ohio, regulators want to gather as much input as possible from anyone around the state.
Statehouse correspondent Andy Chow has more on what a change to an area code could mean for individuals and businesses.
The 740 area code takes up a huge portion of the state, starting in the north part of central Ohio and reaching all the way to the southeastern border.
Now the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, also known as the PUCO, is looking at a possible change, which could mean a new area code for half of the region.
Why the adjustment? Because the North American Numbering Plan Administrator, or NANPA, says the 740 area code could reach its limit by 2015. Jason Gilham, spokesperson for the PUCO, says this is called reaching exhaustion.
Gilham: “Pretty much exactly what it sounds like you would run out of numbers. The industry—the AT&Ts the Verizons—the companies on that side—they request blocks of numbers. I believe a block is like 10,000 numbers at a time. So as they’re requesting these blocks—that’s what NANPA’s is looking at to see how many of those blocks are left.”
The PUCO has created two options, the overlay plan and the split plan.
In the overlay plan, everyone would keep their current 7-digit number and the 740 area code. All new numbers would be assigned a new area code. But everyone in the area would have to dial all 10 numbers to call someone, even if it’s a local call.
The split plan does just that, it splits the 740 region in two parts; one half would keep their current 7-digit number and the 740 area code, the other half would keep the 7-digit number but receive a new area code. The proposed map for the split has a line running north and south creating an eastern and western region.
The plan does not specify which region would change its area code - that would be decided by the commission later down the road.
Gilham says neither change would lead to any new costs from cellphone or landline companies. However, he does say businesses could take on some costs if they end up with a new area code in the split plan.
That’s why companies need to make their voice heard on the issue, says Julie Wagner Feasel, vice president of communications for the Ohio Chamber of Commerce.
Wagner Feasel: “A lot of times businesses will personalize their telephone numbers so that it’s catchy and memorable in people’s minds and so they’ve invested a lot of money in promoting that specific telephone number not only on printed materials but now on websites and also in any type of radio and television advertising that they might be doing.”
The PUCO is now open for public comment on the issue and for the first time ever, the commission has created an easy online tool for people to share their input on the possible change. There’s even an option to choose which plan you prefer.
Gilham: “Realizing the nature of this and the amount of people it affects we wanted to make that process as simple as possible and also have a new way to engage people.”
Wagner Feasel used the online tool and says it should be a great asset to Ohioans.
Wagner Feasel: “For those people who live in areas that aren’t necessarily heard from a lot like our Appalachian area and our southeastern Ohio area I think it’s going to be very helpful to them.”
The public has a three week window to add their comments to the mix. After that window closes on November 27, the PUCO will collect the input and take a closer look at the issue.
Gilham says a change is not a complete inevitability, citing two cases in 2001 where the 614 and 513 area codes seemed to be reaching exhaustion, but it turns out the administrator’s projections were off.
The last time a switch was needed was in 2000 and 2001 for the 330 and 419 area codes. The overlay option was chosen in both cases, which means the area code must be dialed for all local calls.