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ST. MEINRAD – 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 Counselor is encouraging consumers to know their options and providecomments on the upcoming changes.
A new area code be added either through an overlay or a geographic split. The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission will decide which method to use and will hold a series of public field hearings throughout the 812 area, including a hearing April 2 in St. Meinrad.
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.
The geographic split method was the most commonly used option before 2005. It was used to provide relief to central Indiana’s 317 area code in 1996 and northern Indiana’s 219 area code in 2001.
The hearing will be held in the St. Bede Theater at the St. Meinrad Archabbey.
Officials will conduct an informational session on the regulatory process and the options for area code relief at 5:30 p.m. and will accept public comments at 6 p.m.
Sworn oral and written comments regarding the 812 case will be accepted during the field hearing. Oral and written consumer comments carry equal weight and will become part of the case’s official evidentiary record.
Commissioners will not answer questions during the field hearing. However, officials will be available before, during and after the hearing.
The hearing in St. Meinrad is the eighth of 10 the IURC is holding throughout the 812 area.
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.
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 10 digits for local calls with area code and number.
Businesses, nonprofit organizations 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 new area code.
Seven-digit dialing would continue for local calls.
Many businesses, non-profit organizations and other customers would need to reprint signage, stationery, advertising and business cards and would incur the costs of doing so.
The OUCC – which represents consumer interests consumer interests in cases before the IRRC – 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.
More information on this case, including the complete schedule for public field hearings, is available atwww.in.gov/oucc/2718. htm.
Consumers who want to submit comments should visit www.in. gov/oucc/2361.htm or by mail, email or fax:
• Mail: Consumer Services Staff, Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor, 115 W.Washington St., Suite 1500 S., Indianapolis, IN 46204 or by email atucciinfo@oucc.IN.gov
• Fax: (317) 232-5923
• Written comments the OUCC receives by May 7 will 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.”
Consumers with questions about submitting written comments can contact the OUCC’s consumer services staff toll-free at (888) 441-2494.