PUC hands down 717 area code decision

You can keep your 717 phone number, but you’ll eventually need to dial 10 digits to make local calls. And if you get a new phone number in the coming years, your area code probably won’t be 717.

These are the consequences of the Public Utility Commission’s unanimous decision Thursday to adopt an overlay area code for the 16 central Pennsylvania counties whose phone numbers start with 717, according to a news release from the PUC.

The decision follows months of debate over what the commission should do when it runs out of usable 717 phone numbers. The area code is projected to be exhausted by the third quarter of 2017.

NeuStar Inc., the Virginia-based numbering plan administrator for Pennsylvania’s phone companies, pitched two possible solutions: the overlay option and a “split” option, which would have required some counties to receive new phone numbers.

The public widely supported the overlay, with many midstate businesses fearing the costs and lost business associated with switching to a new phone number. One York-Adams Realtor, for example, estimated that just replacing “for sale” signs in front of houses with updated phone numbers could cost about $200,000.

“Throughout this process, residents and businesses from across the region offered a strong and clear message – they want to keep their existing telephone numbers,” PUC Chairman Gladys Brown said in the release. “The proposal approved by the commission today addresses those concerns, avoiding the potential confusion and expense of a widespread telephone number switch, while also ensuring that a supply of new numbers will be available for decades to come.”

The PUC will notify customers about the switch to 10-digit dialing three months before the remaining supply of 717 numbers reaches its end. The new overlay area code will be implemented over a nine-month period.

This new code, the digits of which the PUC has not yet announced, will provide telephone numbers to the region for about 67 years.

Jennifer Wentz
Jennifer Wentz covers Lancaster County, York County, financial services, taxation and legal services. Have a tip or question for her? Email her at jwentz@cpbj.com.

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