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Government


Ohio's 740 area code might change
The North American Numbering Plan Administrator says the 740 area code could reach its limit by 2015
by WKSU's ANDY CHOW


Reporter
Andy Chow
 
Julie Wagner Feasel, vice president of communications for the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, says companies need to make their voices heard on this issue.
Courtesy of Ohio Chamber of Commerce
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In The Region:

The state wants to know what you think about a potential area code change. While the change would be in central and southeastern Ohio, regulators want to gather as much input as possible from the whole state. Statehouse correspondent Andy Chow has more on what a change to one area code could mean for people and businesses in other regions of Ohio.

LISTEN: 740 area code may reach is capacity by 2015

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The 740 area code takes up a huge geographic portion of the state, starting in the northern part of central Ohio and reaching all the way to Ohio's southeastern border.

Now the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, also known as the PUCO, is considering a 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."

“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.”

To overlay or split?
The PUCO has created two options, the overlay plan and the split plan.

In the overlay plan, everyone would keep their current seven-digit number and the 740 area code. But all new numbers would be assigned a new area code. And 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 its current seven-digit number and the 740 area code; the other half would keep the seven-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.

No new costs, at least not directly
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 be heard on the issue, says Julie Wagner Feasel, vice president of communications for the Ohio Chamber of Commerce.

“A lot of times, businesses will personalize their telephone numbers so that it’s catchy and memorable in people’s minds. 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 online tool for people to share their input. There’s even an option to choose which plan you prefer.

“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.”

Three-week window to weigh in
Wagner Feasel used the online tool and says it should be a great asset to Ohioans.

“For those people who live in areas who 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 closes on Nov. 27, the PUCO will collect the input and take a closer look.

Gilham says a change is not inevitable, 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.

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