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 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 will decide which method to use and is holding a series of public field hearings throughout the 812 area, including one at the East Central High School auditorium, St. Leon, Thursday, May 2. An informational session on the regulatory process and options begins at 5:30 p.m., and public comments will be accepted beginning at 6 p.m.
Sworn oral and written comments will be accepted during the hearing, and both 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.
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 four 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.
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, nonprofits 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, nonprofits 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 May 15.
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.
Written comment may be submitted by mail to Consumer Services Staff, Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor, 115 W. Washington St., Suite 1500 S., Indianapolis, IN 46204; faxed to 317-232-5923; e-mailed to uccinfo@oucc.IN.gov or submitted on the OUCC’s Web site at www.in.gov/oucc/2361.htm
Written comments must be received by May 7 to be filed with the commission and included in the case’s formal evidentiary record. Comments should include the consumer’s name, mailing address and a reference to “IURC Cause No. 44233.”
For more information, persons can call 888-441-2494.