Area Code Changes Planned

As of May 2014, telecommunication carriers were already using 727 of the 792 exchanges available for assignment to the 631 area
A possible dividing line for a new area code in Suffolk would be along the western borders of Smithtown, Central Islip, and Islip.

The New York State Public Service Commission has set in motion a process to address the depletion of phone numbers with the 631 area code, which is projected to occur by the first quarter of 2016, and has scheduled public hearings on alternate strategies for doing so. A public hearing before an administrative law judge will be held in Riverhead on Tuesday at the Riverhead County Center, 300 Center Drive, at 2 p.m., preceded by an informational forum at 1 p.m. Those wishing to speak need only appear.

As of May 2014, telecommunication carriers were already using 727 of the 792 codes available for assignment to the 631 area. As a result, the P.S.C. has come up with two ways to meet future demand for new numbers. The first course of action, called an overlay, would entail providing a new area code for all new numbers in the geographic area, while allowing pre-existing 631 numbers to remain. Callers would be required to dial the area code for all calls in Suffolk County. The reasoning behind this, according to a press release, is that it would be unfair to require consumers with new area code numbers to dial all 10 digits,  without requiring consumers with the 631 code to do so as well.

The second strategy is a geographic split in which part of Suffolk County would keep the 631 code, while the rest of it would have a new area code. A map drawn by the commission identifies a prospective split as running along the western borders of Smithtown, Central Islip, and Islip, and through Fire Island. The projected date at which the area code numbers on each side would be exhausted would be considered in deciding which side would keep 631.

Dividing the county into two code areas would require dialing all ten digits when calling the neighboring geographical area. It also would require thousands of customers to take their wireless phones to their service providers to be reprogrammed with the new area code.

To educate citizens on the process, the commission has published information  on AskPSC.com and will send mailings to those affected by the change. Anyone  interested may also comment by voice message at the P.S.C. toll-free opinion line, 800-335-2120, or by submitting comments at AskPSC.com.  One may also write to Kathleen H. Burgess, secretary, New York State Public Service Commission, 3 Empire State Plaza, Albany 12223-1350 or email her at secretary@dps.ny.gov. All comments must reach the commission by July 31. Those doing so should include the term “631 Area Code Case” or “Case 14-C-0182.”