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315: regulators say it's time to add another area code

New York State Public Service Commission


The area code 315 covers a lot of ground: it covers the entire region from south of Syracuse and central New York, west toward Rochester, and north to the Canadian border. That could change.

One of the great things about living in the 315 area code is that you only have to dial seven digits.

Area codes may not seem like a big deal, but it turns out, they matter to people. John Manning directs the North American Numbering Plan Administration, or NANPA, which is the organization in charge of assigning phone numbers. Manning said people identify with the area codes they have had for along time.

”People become connected with a particular number, they like that panache associated, 'hey I have a downtown New York City 212, I have a 415, I have an old 214 in downtown Dallas, Texas.'”

Manning said area code 315 is about to hit something called “area code exhaust.” He said that is not when all the numbers in an area code have been assigned, it is when the area code runs out of prefixes — that second set of 3 digits.

The area code 315 only has a little more than 30 prefixes left and they are expected to run out in early 2017. At that time, 315 would either have to get an overlay -- a new area code for all new numbers and all the old numbers keep 315 -- or it would be split -- half the population gets the 315 area code and the other half gets something else.

This question of adding new area codes has been discussed across the country for years. Manning explained in the late 1990s, a lot of new phone companies cropped up and people started getting cell phones. That meant the country needed more prefixes.

"So you had this demand for prefixes, [and a] limited quantity," Manning said. "So you can see why were were saying, ‘oh we’re going to exhaust an area code.’”

However, 315 hung on a lot longer than anyone expected.

"This is the fifth time since 1999 that they have warned us that the end is near," New York state Sen. Patty Ritchie said. She does not want her constituents to have to deal with the inconvenience of an area code change unless it is totally necessary.

”It’s going to create a real hardship for businesses, for senior citizens, it’s certainly something I don’t take lightly."

Manning said businesses may have to reprint their cards or signs. Dialing an extra 3 digits might be confusing for a little while.

”Everybody wants to to avoid the disruption, because there is a disruption. But eventually we’ve found over time, the public gets used to it and eventually rolls with it," said Manning.

The New York State Public Service Commission is taking comments on the area code change at their website. No date for a decision has been set

Sarah is a correspondent for North Country Public Radio, based in Canton, N.Y.