November 7, 2013
There aren’t enough numbers in the 740 area code to accommodate anticipated demand, so state utility regulators are preparing to introduce a new code by early 2015.
Now, they’re asking people to weigh in on how the new area code — which hasn’t been released yet — is added.
The two options — overlay or split — are being driven by so-called number exhaustion, which is determined by the North American Numbering Program Administration, a federal agency. The agency says the 740 area code will run out of telephone numbers by early 2015, said Jason Gilham, PUCO spokesman.
The overlay option would allow those in the 740 area code to retain their number, but they’d have to use all 10 digits when calling within the area code. New numbers would be assigned the new area code.
The split plan would geographically divide customers, with half of them assigned the new area code.
The public will have until Nov. 27 to vote or comment on which option they prefer, Gilham said. The PUCO will review the comments, make a decision and implement its ruling over 13 months.
The need for another area code is an indication of economic and population growth, said Bill LaFayette, owner of the Columbus-based economics consulting firm Regionomics.
When the 740 area code split off from 614 in 1998, he said, Delaware County’s population was slightly more than 99,000. By last year, the county’s population was slightly more than 181,000.
“That’s not quite a doubling, but close enough,” LaFayette said.
Delaware County Auditor George Kaitsa said his county’s population is projected to grow another 3 percent, to 186,800, by the end of the year.
Businesses in the county grew to 3,890 with more than 69,000 employees in 2011, up from 2,274 businesses with 36,000 employees in 1998, LaFayette said.
“And when you think about the type of business in Delaware County, a lot of those businesses tend to pass out a lot of cellphones to employees,” he said. “That’s part of what’s driving it, too.”
An increase in “machine-to-machine” communications by gasoline pumps, vending machines and other devices that accept credit-card payments also is driving the demand for phone numbers, the PUCO’s Gilham said.
“Any time when you’re at a gas pump and you’re using your credit or debit card, there’s a (phone) number assigned to that pump,” he said.
The number of gas pumps in Delaware County alone increased 33 percent to 1,252 from 2007 to 2012, Auditor Kaitsa said.
To comment on the two plans offered, residents in the 740 area code can contact the PUCO by mail at 180 E. Broad St., Columbus, 43215; by phone at 1-800-686-7826; and online at www.puco.ohio.gov.
Dispatch Reporter Tim Feran contributed to this story.