PSC sees few headaches with code remedy

KINDERHOOK–The 518 area code is running out of phone numbers, according to the state’s Public Service Commission, and there are two solutions. Last Thursday, July 28, representatives from the PSC held a public hearing at the Ichabod Crane High School Auditorium to discuss the options. Only a few people attended and only one person offered a public comment at the beginning of the 7 p.m. public hearing, which remained open until 8 p.m.

There were also public hearings in Glens Falls, Latham, Gloversville and Plattsburgh, and one more was scheduled for Lake Placid August 4.

According to Graham Jesmer, a lawyer with the PSC who presented the information at the meeting, the state will make the final decision on the best way to expand the number of phone numbers. He said the question probably will not be reviewed by the PSC until this fall.z

Mr. Jesmer and his co-presenter, Lauri Mullen, explained the two proposed solutions that would prevent the region from running out of numbers. One would require splitting the capital region into two geographic sections, with one keeping the 518 area code and the other section required to use a new area code.

Ms. Mullen said that a spilt would mean that businesses and homeowners in one region would get “a new area code on top of their seven-digit number.” She said one complication with that solution is that businesses in the new area code would incur an expense because they would have to change all marketing materials to update their phone numbers.

The other solution to the problem is the overlay option. This solution, according to the information given out at the meeting means, “a new area code is superimposed on the existing 518 region with the result that two different area codes serve the same region. Current costumers within the region would keep the 518 area code and seven-digit number assigned to them, while new telecommunication services are assigned the new area code.” This two-area-code approach would affect both traditional wireline customers and cell phones.

Ms. Mullen said that with this two-area-code option, “All existing customers keep their numbers.”

“This is very meaningful,” she said.

Mr. Jesmer pointed out that the biggest change with the overlay option is that people will have to dial 10 digits instead of just 7 once the new area code is put in place. He said that 10-digit dialing has becoming more common, especially with the migration to the internet. He also said that most people now have numbers programmed into their phones, area code included.

According to the PSC, there currently are 18 area codes in the state. Ms. Mullen said that the last spilt was in 2001, when 585 was spilt and the 506 area code was created. Seven overlays have happened in the state and that approach is the one recommended by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

The 518 area code services parts or all of 17 counties including: Albany, Clinton, Columbia, Dutchess, Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Greene, Hamilton, Montgomery, Rensselaer, Saint Lawrence, Saratoga, Schenectady, Schoharie, Warren and Washington.

Neustar, the North American Numbering Plan Administration, a company used by the FCC to keep track of area codes in the US, determined that the 518 area code could run out of assignable telephone numbers by the first quarter of 2019.

Comments can still be provided to the state PSC at or by mail to the Department of Public Service, Three Empire State Plaza, Albany, New York, 12223-1350, or call 1-800-335-2120.

The 518 Area Code Relief is case 16-C-0297. There is more information at www.dps.ny.gov.

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