Area codes. What began as the replacement for human telephone operators quickly turned into a disclosure of geographical locations, along with — in at least some instances — an indication of social status.
The glamour of Manhattan’s “212” area code even spawned a website where one can spend over $500 to purchase a number with the three special digits.
As they say, all good things must come to an end.
According to the North American Numbering Plan Administration, “the 631” will run out of assignable telephone numbers by the first quarter of 2016.
Telephone numbers have three parts: the three-digit area code, or Numbering Plan Area; the three-digit central office code; and the four-digit station number. The middle part — the three-digit central office code — is assigned to a specific geographic area within the NPA.
Currently, about 727 of the 792 available central office codes have been used, leaving only about 65 central office codes free — equaling about 65,000 new phone numbers.
The New York State Public Service Commission is currently looking to the public for feedback on how to provide more phone numbers for future residents before the “631” area code is exhausted.
According to the PSC, there are usually two options for dealing with the situation: an overlay, or “through a geographic split of the existing area code.”
An overlay — the preferred route by telecom companies — would mean that a new area code would be assigned to the area, having no effect on existing numbers. Still, if an overlay occurred, current 631 residents would have to type in the 10-digit number (area code included) for every call they make, even within the 631 region.
If a geographical split occurred, the current 631 area of Suffolk County would be separated into two separate zones, with one area keeping the 631 code and one receiving a new code.
Businesses and residents in the “new” area code region would then have their area code changed, and as a result have to reprogram any mobile devices and — for businesses that have 631 numbers — purchase new advertising and other materials that have their phone numbers on them.
The PSC will be holding public hearings and information sessions to further explain the situation as well as hear the public’s comments and opinions.
An information and feedback session will be held in Riverside on Tuesday, July 15, at the county center. At 1 p.m. there will be an informational forum and at 2 p.m. there will be a public statement hearing.
Other meetings will be held throughout the county, in Holbrook, Smithtown and Huntington Station.