By Beth Musgrave
FRANKFORT — Some people in Western Kentucky could get a new area code soon.
The Public Service Commission, which regulates all utilities, has started proceedings that will lead to a new area code in all or a portion of area code 270, which covers Western Kentucky from Bowling Green to Paducah.
The North American Numbering Plan Administrator — which oversees phone numbers and area codes — has projected that area code 270 will run out of numbers by the first quarter of 2014, according to a news release from the commission.
The issue first surfaced in 2001, when the North American Numbering Plan Administrator first suggested that numbers in the 270 area code might be running out. In May 2007, because of those concerns, the commission ordered the creation of a new area code — 364– in the western half of the 207 area code. Those plans were put on hold several times because of a decrease in demand for phone numbers and a change in the way phone numbers were assigned.
But now it appears that area code 270 might be nearly out of available phone numbers.
The Public Service Commission is considering two options for creating a new area code, according to information released Thursday. The first option is to allow for an overlay of area code 364 in the same territory covered by 270. The second option is to split 270 and assign 364 to a portion of the 270 territory. For example, in 2007 the commission choose to split 270. Bowling Green, Columbus, Glasgow, Elizabethtown and Owensboro remained in area code 270. Far Western Kentucky — including Paducah, Madisonville, Murray and Henderson – would be designated as area code 364 under the 2007 plan.
If the commission decides to split 270, there is no assurances that it would follow the same line, said Andrew Melnykovych, a spokesman for the Public Service Commission.
Melnykovych said the vast majority of new area codes have been created by overlays. “Manhattan has three overlays,” Melnykovych said. “Most major cities have overlays.”
One drawback of an overlay is that people will have to dial the area code and the local number for all calls. A split would require roughly half of the people in the area code to get a new phone number, including mobile phone users in that area code.
The commission will hold hearings in October in Western Kentucky to receive public comment and go over the possible options. Those hearing dates and locations are to be announced in early October.
The commission is expected to make a decision on how to add the new area code by the end of the year, Melnykovych said.
The last area code to be created in Kentucky was 859 in 2000.