(BEDFORD) - The 812 telephone area code is running low on available numbers and will need significant changes in the near future.
The Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor (OUCC) is encouraging consumers to know the options and provide their comments on the upcoming changes.
A new area code will need to be added either through an overlay or a geographic split. The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) will decide which method to use and is holding a series of public field hearings throughout the 812 area, including a hearing in Bedford on Monday, March 25, 2013.
The hearing will be held at Bedford North Lawrence High School (595 Stars Boulevard). The OUCC will conduct an informational session on the regulatory process and the options for area code relief at 5:30 p.m., local time. The IURC will begin accepting public comments at 6:00 p.m., local time.
- Sworn oral and written comments regarding the 812 case will be accepted during the field hearing.
- Oral and written consumer comments carry equal weight and will become part of the case's official evidentiary record.
- Commissioners are not allowed to answer questions during the field hearing. (However, OUCC and IURC staff will be available before, during and after the hearing.)
The hearing in Bedford is the sixth of 10 the IURC will be holding throughout the 812 area.
More than 35 states, including Indiana, have added new area codes throughout the last two decades because of dwindling number supplies due to wireless phones, fax machines, pagers and other technological advances that emerged in the 1990s. These include all 4 of Indiana's neighboring states.
The overlay method, which involves having more than one area code in a given area, has been the most commonly used option for area code relief since 2005 and is currently being implemented in western Kentucky to relieve the 270 area code.
The geographic split method was the most commonly used option before 2005. It was used to provide relief to central Indiana's 317 area code in 1996 and northern Indiana's 219 area code in 2001.
If an overlay is used:
- All consumers with 812 numbers would keep their current telephone numbers.
- Local calling areas and rates would not change. However, all customers would start dialing ten digits for local calls (area code + number).
- Businesses, not-for-profit organizations, and other customers would not need to reprint signage, stationery, advertising, or business cards due to the change.
If a geographic split is used:
- All customers in part of the 812 area would keep their current numbers, while all customers in other parts of the 812 area would be required to switch to numbers with the new area code.
- Seven-digit dialing would continue for local calls.
- Many businesses, not-for-profit organizations, and other customers would need to reprint signage, stationery, advertising, and/or business cards, and would incur the costs of doing so.
The OUCC - which represents consumer interests in cases before the IURC - is evaluating this case and is scheduled to file testimony on May 15, 2013.
The telecommunications industry has filed testimony requesting use of the overlay method.
A final IURC decision is expected by the end of 2013.
Regardless of which option is used:
- The new area code will be gradually implemented, with a grace period of several months to allow consumers to adjust to the changes.
- Local calling areas and telephone rates will not change as a result of the new area code. Calls that are currently free will remain free.
- Calls to 911, 811 and 211 will not be affected.
More information on this case, including the complete schedule for public field hearings, is available online at www.in.gov/oucc/2718.htm.
Consumers who wish to submit written comments in this case may do so via the OUCC's Website at www.in.gov/oucc/2361.htm, or by mail, email or fax:
Consumer Services Staff
Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor
115 W. Washington St., Suite 1500 South
Indianapolis, IN 46204
Have a question or comment about a news story? Send it to email@example.com