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Residents, businesses facing area code change

By WKTV News

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - Due to an increase in technology and mobile devices, most people have more than one phone number and now assignable numbers with the 315 area code are running out.

The Public Service Commission says action needs to be taken immediately.  There are two options on the table right now. One is called an overlay, meaning everyone who currently has the 315 area code will keep the number and those who acquire new services in the future or move to the area will be given a new one.

The other option is called a geographical split in which the 19 counties that use the 315 area code will be divided. Certain counties will keep the area code while other regions will make a complete switch.  Sen. Joe Griffo believes this change is a disruption for everyone and would like to see it delayed even further. But, because it appears inevitable, he just wants people to know their options.

"From a business perspective the business community would have to change phone numbers if they have a letterhead and things like that nature you'd be getting a different area code obviously. For the overlay it could be that you could be calling somebody across the street having to dial a whole different area code and numbers instead of just dialing the seven numbers you dial now, you could be dialing 10 or 11 so there's both components to that," said Sen. Griffo.

In 2008, an Administrative Law Judge recommended an overlay for the 315 area code so that businesses would not have to change their number and deal with the costs of changing their advertisements on billboards, window fronts and cars. It's also costly to change letterheads and business cards.

Sen. Griffo's office has received about 500 phone calls on the matter already. So far, residents and businesses prefer an overlay, 3 to 1.

But at a personal statement hearing at the Utica State Office Building on Monday, not everyone agreed. One concerned resident believes paying the price now will be better in the long run.

"If they have an overlay then they're going to be stuck with that burdensome, time consuming task on having to dial 11 digits on every phone call for the rest of their business life and the rest of our personal lives," said Norm Landis of the City of Rome.

The president of the Rome Area Chamber of Commerce said both options are too inconvenient for everyone.

"A more thorough explanation and justification of the necessity for doing this is needed. Plus any alternatives that might be less burdensome, less costly and not so onerous for businesses and residents should be explored," said Bill Guglielmo.

The change will likely be implemented 18 to 24 months from now. Whether or not it will be a split or an overlay will likely be based on public opinion, so Sen. Griffo is encouraging people make their voices heard.

If you can't attend, you can send your comments by e-mail to secretary@dps.ny.gov or call the Commission's Opinion Line at 1-800-342-3377.

Comments need to be submitted by August 16 and the PSC will likely have a decision by September.

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