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PSC postpones 315 area code changes

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The state Public Service Commission has put on hold the introduction of a new area code for Central and Northern New York.

PSC officials said the North American Numbering Plan Administrator — the agency responsible for administering area codes — has determined the “315 region” would not need another area code until the third quarter of 2016.

“Due to the potential disruption that could be created when a new area code is added, it is prudent to temporarily postpone this proceeding given that extra time now exists before a decision must be made,” PSC Chairwoman Audrey Zibelman said in a news release Thursday.

The state agency initially was expecting the region to run out of assignable codes in the first quarter of 2015 at the latest.

Several public hearings were held this summer to discuss whether to split the region geographically or simply to create an “overlay district” and hand out area codes — 315 or a new three-digit code — based on availability.

Both methods have their pros and cons, but for Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties, a geographical split would force a new area code onto residents and businesses.

Residents in metropolitan Utica, however, appear to support the geographical split as it would retain the association of a region with its area code, PSC officials had said.

Also, while a geographical split would allow customers to continue dialing 7 digits without the area code for local calls, the overlay option would require all customers to dial 10 digits even for local calls.

Creating an overlay district was the action recommended by a PSC administrative law judge in 2008.

State Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, an outspoken critic of the proposed change who had called for the public hearings held earlier this year, said Thursday that she is “pleased” with the PSC’s decision to delay the proceedings.

“From small business owners concerned about a loss of customers to local people who identify themselves as ‘315ers’, the change would have a real impact. I’m pleased that the PSC listened to those who spoke out and decided to put the proposal on hold,” she said in a news release.

Ms. Zibelman said the PSC “should be able to restart the proceeding quickly” when needed.

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