Arkansas is getting a new area code sometime in the next couple of years but this time, all existing phone numbers will remain the same.
The supply of 870 numbers is expected to run out in as early as three years. In preparation, the Arkansas Public Service Commission announced today that all new phone numbers created inside the 870 area will receive a 327 area code beginning sometime in 2012.
Instead of splitting the area up and requiring a portion of the state’s phone customers to change their numbers again, the commission has chosen to use a growingly popular “overlay” plan which will result in two area codes serving the same area.
In other words, Arkansans within the current 870 area will have to use an area code even when making local phone calls. Customers will not, however, be charged long distance fees for making those local calls, despite having to dial all 10 digits.
To those calling an 870 or a new 327 number from outside the area, there will be no change in the dialing procedure.
In response to the resistance it receives when the older, “split” plans are implemented which require existing customers to change their phone numbers, the telecommunications industry began introducing overlay plans in the late 1990s.
“Under a split plan, there’s a winner and a loser,” said Arkansas Public Service chair Paul Suskie. The overlay plan, he says, makes more sense for the 870 area and provides a nice compromise instead of a constant change of phone numbers for those customers in the future.
The 870 area code was created in 1997 as a split from the state-wide 501 area code. The 501 area was then split again in 2002 with the addition of the Northwest Arkansas-based 479 area code.
One could argue that with the increasing popularity of digital and mobile phones which store and dial numbers automatically upon selecting a desired entry, that even those who will be required to dial 10 digits locally won’t have too much to complain about by the time the change occurs.