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PSC to reconsider plan to split area code by 2015

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The state Public Service Commission is accepting comments through July 31 on a plan established four years ago to create a second area code in the 18-county 315 region.

The PSC has cited new information suggesting the 315 code will run out of room for serviceable numbers by early 2015. The state entity will reconsider implementing a plan hatched in 2007 to create an “overlay” district. Under that plan recommended by the PSC, new numbers will be assigned the new code and existing customers will keep the 315. All customers would need to dial using 10 digits if the plan takes effect, including for local calls.

Residents have until July 31 to comment on the plan to establish the overlay district.

Experts recently predicted that the 315 area code will likely be out of available numbers by the first quarter of 2015, spurring the PSC to resume discussions that began in 2007.

The PSC hosted several public hearings in Watertown, Lowville and Potsdam during the spring of 2008 in which residents and business owners weighed in on proposed changes to the code. One option was to establish the overlay district, while the other was to split the region to assign a new code to one half, and 315 to the other.

In May 2008, north country residents and business owners overwhelmingly supported at public hearings the plan to create an overlay district, enabling them to keep their 315 phone numbers.

Residents rejected the other three options proposed, which were collectively named “the split.”

That plan would have split the 315 region geographically along east-west or north-south lines. All three versions, however, would have assigned a new area code in Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence Counties. The Greater-Watertown North Country Chamber of Commerce, which conducted a business survey at the time, concluded business owners could lose customers during the changeover period in which the new area code would be assigned.

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