The state Public Service Commission has scheduled a half-dozen public meetings to discuss the process of creating a new area code in Western Kentucky.
At the meetings, the PSC staff will discuss the need for the new area code, show an informational video and take public comments on the options.
The discussion is linked to a notice by the North American Numbering Plan Administration, or NANPA, which oversees phone numbers and area codes, that the 270 area code that stretches from Bowling Green to Paducah will run out of numbers by the first quarter of 2014.
The PSC is weighing two options for creating the new area code. The first is an overlay, in which any new phone numbers in that geographic area would receive area code 364. No existing phone numbers would change, but the drawback would be that people would have to dial the area code for all calls, including local calls.
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The second option is to split the 270 territory and assign area code 364 to a portion of it. A split would require that roughly half of the people in the 270 area code get a new phone number, including mobile phone users in that area code. The advantage, though, is the area code would not have to be dialed when making local calls.
PSC spokesman Andrew Melnykovych has said the vast majority of new area codes recently have been created via overlays. A decision on the new area code is expected by the end of the year.
This is the latest in talks stretching back years on the need for a new area code in Western Kentucky.
The issue first surfaced in 2001, when NANPA suggested numbers might be running out. In May 2007, the commission ordered the creation of the 364 area code in the western half of the 270 area code.
Those plans were put on hold several times, though, because of a decrease in demand for phone numbers and a change in how phone numbers were assigned.
The last area code to be added in Kentucky was 859 in 2000.