Calling your neighbor down the street may soon require 10 digits, under new area code plans being considered by the Kentucky Public Service Commission.
PSC spokesman Andrew Melnykovych said the North American Numbering Plan Administrator — which oversees an integrated telephone numbering program in 20 North American countries — has indicated the 270 area code will be out of available numbers by the spring of 2014.
He said the PSC is considering two options to solve the numbers crunch. Both involve the creation of a new area code — 364 — in western Kentucky.
The first option would simply overlay the new area code into the same territory now covered by the 270 area code. That would allow everyone with existing 270 numbers to keep them, with new lines — everything from cell phones to fax machines — receiving 364 numbers.
That would mean people would have to dial area codes even when making local calls.
The second option involves splitting the 270 area code, with part of the region reassigned the new 364 area code. While that would allow people in both area codes to use seven-number dialing for local calls, it would also mean that wireless and landline customers in about half the region would have to change their telephone numbers.
For businesses, that would mean the expense of reprinting stationary, business cards, receipts and other paperwork, and changing Web sites and advertising that listed their numbers.
This is the second time in six years the PSC has considered adopting a new area code for the western section of the state. In the summer of 2006, it started the process to split the 270 area code after being told by NANPA that available phone numbers were being exhausted.
The recession and changes in how blocks of numbers were assigned to telephone providers, however, pushed that projected exhaustion date back. Before May 2007, numbers were issued in blocks of 10,000; after that, they were issued in blocks of 1,000.
In December 2010 the PSC dropped the proposed split, which would have placed areas west of Owensboro and Bowling Green, such as Hopkinsville, Henderson, Murray and Paducah, in the new 364 area code.
The PSC has not said whether the new proposed split would follow the same lines. It has not scheduled evidentiary hearings on the proposed changes, and said it will not do so unless they become necessary.
People can make comments on the proposed changes by sending them via mail to the PSC at PO Box 615, Frankfort, KY 40602, faxing them to (502) 564-9625, or emailing them from the PSC’s website. All comments must by submitted by Nov. 16.
Melnykovych said the PSC will be holding public meetings throughout the region this month to explain the options and take public comment. When and where those meetings will be held will be announced at a later date.