December 8, 2021

New area code sought for South Florida

With the state’s population continuing to grow and cell phones and other technology requiring new numbers, South Florida could get another area code.

State regulators next week will hold a workshop to begin considering a proposal to create an additional area code in Palm Beach County because the 561 area code is in “jeopardy” of running out of numbers, according to a proposal filed Friday by the North American Numbering Plan Administrator, an agency that oversees area codes.

The proposal comes after the Florida Public Service Commission during the past three years has approved new area codes for Central Florida, Northwest Florida and the Tampa Bay region amid concerns about long-established area codes running out of numbers.

The 561 area code began in 1996, and an additional area code, 772, was approved in 2002 because the 561 code was “nearing exhaust,” the proposal filed Friday said.

The proposal calls for what is known in the telecommunications industry as an overlay, which means a new area code would cover the same territory as the 561 area code, with new customers receiving the new code. The new code would be projected to meet needs for 23 years.

“All existing customers would retain their current area code in the overlay area and would not have to change their telephone numbers,” the proposal said. “The implementation of an overlay requires mandatory 10-digit dialing for local calls, including calls within the same (area code).”

The Public Service Commission has scheduled a workshop Nov. 5. The proposal, which is backed by the telecommunications industry, said that “because the 561 (area code) is in jeopardy, the Industry requests that the commission grant this petition no later than February 28, 2022.”

The proposal does not specify a number for the new area code but calls for beginning to use it by early 2023.

The state’s telecommunications industry has undergone massive changes during the past two decades as residents have unplugged traditional phone lines and moved heavily to cell phones and technology such as internet-based calling.

The Federal Communications Commission estimated that, as of June 2019, Florida had nearly 22.1 million wireless subscriptions, up from 21.4 million a year earlier, according to a state report on the telecommunications industry.

In recent years, the Public Service Commission approved a 689 area code in Central Florida, a 448 area code in Northwest Florida and a 656 area code in the Tampa Bay region. Similar to the Palm Beach County proposal, they were approved as overlays of existing area codes.

Tags: News Service of Florida

 

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