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The telephone area codes for Indiana and the rest of the United States faced few changes from 1947, when they were established, until the 1990s, when cellular phones, fax machines, pagers and other technological advances created a rapid growth in the need for new telephone numbers. During the past 2 decades, “number depletion” has required Indiana and 35 other states to add new area codes. While 2 of Indiana’s original 3 area codes (219 and 317) have needed changes, short-term number conservation efforts have postponed the need for changes to the 812 area code.
Industry forecasts in the early 2000s predicted that the 812 area code would run out of numbers and need some form of long-term numbering relief by 2004. However, the state implemented number conservation efforts that have delayed that need substantially. While number conservation has delayed the need for changes, industry forecasts now show the 812 area exhausting its supply of numbers in the second quarter of 2015.
Because of 812's dwindling number supply, the telecommunications industry has formally asked the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) to add a new area code. This request is pending as IURC Cause No. 44233, with the industry seeking an overlay for the entire 812 area.
The Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor (OUCC) requested written consumer comments in this case from September 2012 through May 2013, and filed the comments it received with the IURC. In addition, the IURC held 10 public field hearings throughout the 812 area.
In testimony filed on May 15, 2013, the OUCC is recommending that the new area code be implemented through an overlay.
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 812 code or with the new code.
If an Overlay is used:
Since the late 1990s, 24 states have implemented area code overlays or are in the process of doing so. They include all of Indiana’s neighboring states, along with 3 states that have implemented overlays statewide (Maryland, Oregon and West Virginia).
43 new area codes have been introduced in North America and the Caribbean since 2005. All but 2 have been implemented as overlays.
Before 2005, most new area codes were implemented using a geographic split. An existing area code would be divided into 2 or more regions, with 1 region keeping the same area code and the other(s) getting new codes. This method was used in central and northern Indiana in 1996 (for the 317 area code) and 2001 (for the 219 area code).
Under a Geographic Split:
Number conservation efforts can delay the need for a new area code by making more efficient use of existing numbers. Under the best example, numbers can be allocated to telecommunication companies in blocks of 1,000 rather than the traditional practice of 10,000 which often left many numbers unused.
Indiana received permission from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to use 1,000 block number pooling in 2001, after the 219 and 317 area codes in northern and central Indiana exhausted their numbering supplies and had to have new area codes assigned.
1,000 block number pooling has helped significantly extend the life spans of all Indiana area codes since 2001, including delaying any need for 812’s long term relief until now.
Regardless of how a new area code is implemented, these things are not affected:
The telecommunications industry initiated this case in August 2012.
The OUCC invited written consumer comments through early May 2013, while the IURC conducted 10 public field hearings to allow for public comments:
An evidentiary hearing was held June 18, 2013 in Indianapolis. The case's formal parties plan to file a joint proposed order (the equivalent of closing arguments) on July 2, 2013.
An IURC order in the pending case can be expected in the second half of 2013. The new area code would then be phased in over a 13-month period, starting when the Commission order is issued.
The standard timeframe for implementing a new area code includes:
The Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor (OUCC) is the state agency that represents utility consumer interests before regulatory and legal bodies. To learn more, visit www.IN.gov/OUCC.
Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor
115 W. Washington St., Suite 1500 South
Indianapolis, Indiana 46204
Voice/TDD: (317) 232-2494
Fax: (317) 232-5923
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