In Clearfield County . . . TURN Director Voices Opposition to New Area Code

CLEARFIELD – John Balliet, director of the DuBois-based Taxpayers United for Representation NOW (TURN), presented its plans to “aggressively” oppose the new 582 area code that has been proposed by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission for portions of the existing 814 area code, which is scheduled to change in early 2012.

The PUC was informed by the North American Numbering Plan Administrator that 582 will be assigned as the new area code for portions of the current 814 area code east of Jefferson, Elk and McKean counties. The boundary runs in a north/south direction east of Shinglehouse, Wilcox, Kersey, DuBois and Sykesville rate centers.

On Dec. 16, 2010, the PUC approved its plan that would split the 814 area code along geographic boundaries in order to avoid running out of phone numbers, creating a new area code for customers in portions of northwestern Pennsylvania.

“TURN, specifically, objects to the split of Clearfield County into two area codes,” Balliet said during the public comment period of Wednesday’s regular board of commissioners meeting.

According to him, TURN has proposed two alternatives to that, which was approved by the PUC. He said there could be an overlay with the new number receiving the 582 designation. Or, the entire county could be completely 814 or 582.

TURN has contacted a representative at the PUC, who will provide them with both the formal and informal complaint forms. There will be petition drives initiated in its groups in the Clearfield, DuBois and Punxsutawney areas, he said.

“We are willing to join with other groups,” Balliet said. “And, we would encourage all candidates for office to carry a petition in opposition to the proposed division of the county into two area codes. The more verified signatures on these petitions, the more ammunition that we have.”

Commissioner Chairperson Joan Robinson-McMillen advised the board strongly opposes the newly proposed 582 area code and stated so at its recent meeting. She has since discussed the issue with Nancy Micks, president and chief executive officer of the Greater Dubois Chamber Of Commerce.

She said that Micks assured that the DuBois business owners shared in the objection of the area code split. “They are objected to this, as are many others, too,” Robinson-McMillen said.

Next week, she said the commissioners are scheduled to travel on Wednesday, Jan. 19 to Washington, D.C., where they’ll meet with U.S. Representative Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson, R-Howard. She said they hope to speak with someone about the issues related to the new area code on the national level.

“It makes no sense to split. It doesn’t make good sense. We don’t care if it stays 814 or goes to the new 582, we all just want the same area code,” Commissioner Mark B. McCracken said.

Commissioner John A. Sobel added, “We are one community . . . and we hope to have very good discussions next week.”

According to a previously published PUC press release, the new area code will be implemented Feb. 1, 2012. The commission will continue to closely monitor phone number demand in the 814 area code to determine whether the implementation timeline meets the needs within the area code.

The 814 area code is projected to run out of telephone numbers in the first quarter of 2013. New area codes are needed when existing area codes exhaust their supply of “NXX” codes (which is the second set of three digits in a 10-digit telephone number, NPA-NXX-XXXX). Of the original four Pennsylvania area codes, the 814 area code was the only one to remain unchanged. With the split, Pennsylvania now will have 12 area codes – 412/724/878, 570/272, 814, 582, 717, 610/484 and 215/267.

On June 9, 2009, NANPA, which is the neutral third party area code relief planner for Pennsylvania, petitioned the PUC for area code relief. The commission said the geographic split for the 814 area code created less inconveniences than an overlay. Because of the geographic size of the 814 area code and the location of population centers, the commission said the geographic split was more practical for the 814 area code.

With the geographic split, consumers may continue to dial seven digits for local calling. The other option available to the commission – an overlay – would have covered the entire 814 area code with a new area code and required 10-digit dialing throughout a large geographic area in Pennsylvania.

When introducing a new area code, a permissive dialing period of about six months is allowed while customers adjust to the change.

During this time, customers may reach numbers in the new area code by either dialing 814 or the new area code. Even with permissive dialing, customers are encouraged to use the correct dialing.

Once the permissive dialing period has ended, customers will receive a recorded message telling them to hang up and redial the numbers using the new area code.

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