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TMCNet:  10-digit calling arriving in 2014

[December 17, 2012]

10-digit calling arriving in 2014

Dec 17, 2012 (Daily News - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- By early 2014, everyone in the 270 area code will be required to use 10 digits -- even when phoning their neighbors.

The requirement is a result of the Public Service Commission's decision today to add an overlay for a new area code in the 270 area.

The other alternative that had been given some consideration was to split the 270 area, requiring half the area to change phone numbers altogether. The overlay allows customers to keep their existing numbers.

Jessica Thompson, marketing and communications director for Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce, said the decision is a good one for the business community.

"Obviously we are wanting to support our businesses, and this decision is going to alleviate the concerns that they had about having to order business supplies, forcing them to spend a lot more money when we are all trying to be cost conscious," Thompson said. "So we are happy about the decision." The new 364 area code will be assigned to numbers issued after March 2014, when phone carriers run out of 270 numbers.
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The majority of the phone industry and the public comments received during the hearing process favored the overlay as opposed to the split. Very few people turned out for a public meeting in Bowling Green this fall.

PSC spokesman Andrew Melnykovych said that an overlay posed the fewest technical issues in implementation for phone carriers.

The last time the PSC considered a new area code for the region, the split was the favored option. Implementation was delayed, then canceled, because the need for new numbers didn't develop as quickly as anticipated. That changed earlier this year.

"The need for a new area code is driven largely by demand for new numbers associated with wireless devices, but also is suggestive of increasing economic activity," PSC Chairman David Armstrong said in a news release. "As such, it is a positive development." It's important to note that the new area code and 10-digit dialing also impact cellphone accounts originating in this region.

Armstrong said public sentiment had definitely changed in the period since the PSC began its review process the first time.

"Public opinion has shifted dramatically in the six years since the PSC last considered this matter," Armstrong said in the release. "It appears that the public is much less concerned about 10-digit dialing than about the possibility of having to change phone numbers." Phone companies are to begin preparing their equipment for the change in dialing Feb. 2 and customers may begin their 10-digit dialing Aug. 3, but won't actually be required to do so until Feb. 1, 2014. Any seven-digit calls made after that date won't be connected. Long distance calls for a particular carrier will continue to require dialing "1" before the number, making it an 11-digit call.

Melnykovych said it's hard to quantify the cost associated with the overlay.

"In terms of telecommunications providers, they definitely have a cost," he said. "They have to reprogram their systems. But the cost is less than what it would have been with a split for them. And in terms of the business community, the cost is certainly less than what it would have been with a split." Some businesses, such as alarm companies, will have to make sure that homeowners' systems are reprogrammed to dial 10 digits automatically in an emergency. And emergency management services and police departments that have reverse 911 calling will have to reprogram those systems.

"So there will be some cost ... but mostly it's an investment of time," Melnykovych said. "But overall the cost for an overlay is much less than a split because with a split, half the people would be looking at redoing anything that had their phone number on it -- everything from business cards to repainting signs and everything in between." -- Melnykovych will be available to make presentations to businesses and governments about the change and how it will impact them. For more information about the decision, visit bgdailynews.com.

___ (c)2012 the Daily News (Bowling Green, Ky.) Visit the Daily News (Bowling Green, Ky.) at www.bgdailynews.com Distributed by MCT Information Services

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