814 area code creates talk

DUBOIS — If you thought you would never see the day when all of the phone numbers in area code 814 would be completely used up, that day is just about here.

A group of cell phone and landline telephone users met on a snowy Monday at the Best Western Conference Center in DuBois to discuss the impending change for telephone users in the region from 814 to a new 582 area code. The proposal did not receive a warm reception from the approximately 75 people in attendance.

Nancy Micks, president/CEO of the Greater DuBois Chamber, was the moderator for the program. Some in attendance had just recently heard of the proposed change, which has stirred up much controversy. The 814 area code is projected to run out of telephone numbers in the third quarter of 2012. This means new area codes are needed when an existing area code exhausts its supply of "NXX" codes, which is the second set of three digits in a 10-digit telephone number.

North American Numbering Plan Administrator, NeuStar Inc, is the neutral third party Number Planning Area (NPA) relief planner for Pennsylvania that proposed the change.

It petitioned the Public Utilities Commission on behalf of Pennsylvania's telecommunications industry to institute an "overlay" plan which means that once the existing telephone numbers in the 814 area code are exhausted, new telephone services in the geographic region would be assigned telephone numbers out of the new one. Ten-digit dialing would then apply to all telephone calls.

John Balliet, director of the DuBois-based Taxpayers United for Representation NOW (TURN), said the change is scheduled to occur in early 2012.

Balliet said that TURN believes instead of giving example after example of where we are at in the regulatory scheme at this time, we must focus on where we need to be when the change arrives.

Several members of the audience asked what's the use in coming up with alternative solutions, when the PUC had most likely made up its mind already as to which areas would undergo the change?

County commission members from both Clearfield and Jefferson counties were in attendance, and some expressed concern over the huge expense for businesses to change their area codes on their letterheads, signs and Web sites.

Micks said if people in this region want to fight the change, they need to attend the PUC hearing that will take place at a date yet to be determined in May regarding the proposed change.

Barry Abbott, from DuBois, said the only way to get the attention of the PUC is to have large numbers of people attend the hearing once the time, date and location are announced.

Micks said there's a lot of confusion regarding the topic, and that it's hard for most people to understand why this is happening.

Jeffrey P. Pollock, deputy director/planning of Clearfield County Emergency Management, said that having a good turnout for the hearing is essential to emphasizing how the people of the area feel about the proposed changes.

Micks said the chamber should be informed of the date by the PUC in the near future.