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Final comments sought on new Suffolk area code

Assignable 631 area code numbers are expected to

Assignable 631 area code numbers are expected to run out by early 2016. A proposed “overlay" relief approach means new customers would be assigned the new area code and existing customers' numbers would remain the same. Photo Credit: AP / Nam Y. Huh

A state panel will seek additional public input on a proposal to adopt an "overlay" relief approach in Suffolk County, as assignable 631 area code numbers will run out by early 2016.

That means new customers would be given the new area code and existing customers' phone numbers would remain the same. In addition, callers would have to dial 10 digits, instead of the present seven, for intra-county calls.

That's the approach recommended Oct. 2 to the New York State Public Service Commission by the state Department of Public Service staff. That was after its review of public comments, as well as a petition by the North American Numbering Plan Administrator, which oversees the country's area codes.

Another approach was that of a "geographic split," with Suffolk County residents on one side of a line keeping 631 and those on the other making the switch, outlined in a June 16 staff paper.

The overlay approach barely has a downside -- just dialing 10 digits instead of seven, said David Kitchen, a utility engineer appointed by the commission to lead a July hearing in Riverhead, the first of four on Long Island. A geographic split would disrupt some customers and result in costs to some businesses to advertise their new numbers.

Even though the overlay approach passed muster with its staff, the public service department also acknowledged it would "affect the habits and practices of several hundred thousand customers" and suggested seeking more public input, the commission said in a news release Thursday.

Comments are requested by Nov. 7.

Mail comments, referring to "Case 14-C-0182 -- 631 Area Code Relief," to: Hon. Kathleen H. Burgess, Secretary, Public Service Commission, Three Empire State Plaza, Albany, NY 12223-1350, or email secretary@dps.ny.gov.

In-state callers can also leave comments at 800-335-2120, mentioning the area code 631.

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