Too many phone numbers sparks debate over new area code

Published: .
Updated: .

Making a phone call to southern Indiana soon will change.

The 812 area code is quickly running out of available numbers. Now, the state is asking for feedback on how new area codes should be put in place.

With so many phones and so many people, things are getting crowded in southern Indiana.

"People are talking, texting, emailing all the time," said Bloomington resident Krista Weiss.

"I just think as the population increases, everybody's getting new phones," added Indiana University student Danielle Osbun.

In fact, 812 is running out of phone numbers. So now, officials the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission say a new area code needs to be added.

The question now: Who gets to keep 812 and who has to change?

812 currently covers the entire southern part of the state. One option would be to split area codes geographically, switching some locations to a new set of numbers.

The other option is called an overlay. That would mean customers with 812 numbers right now would stay 812 and any new phone numbers would get the new area code. That would also mean all caller would start dialing 10 digits for local calls.

Businesses fear any change could be costly. Mother Bear's Pizza in Bloomington says it would affect everything from advertising to delivery.

"Every business is going to be affected in Bloomington and southern Indiana," said Mother Bear's manager Karen Wisniewski. "All our carryout menus would have to be changed. All our advertisement in newspapers, magazines. When people try to call, I'd imagine it's going to be confusing for a lot of people for awhile."

Opinions vary on how to implement a new area code.

"I think everybody that has it (812) now should keep it," Osbun said.

"I'd rather see the geographic regions happen, instead of having this patchwork all the way throughout southern Indiana," said Mark Hajduk. "The other option's just way too kooky and crazy, you know, you have to take the lesser of the two evils."

"I like the idea of keeping the area code the same in local areas," Weiss said. "It would just be difficult to call a business or call a neighbor and you have to think about what area code they are even if they're in the same neighborhood."

As for which region should change, the debate is territorial.

"Maybe Terre Haute. I work there, so I feel bad saying that, but maybe Terre Haute, Vincennes...I'm not sure," Weiss said.

"Hopefully not Bloomington. Bloomington should not change and remain 812," Hajduk added.

"I want to be left alone! I like my area code," Wisniewski said.

State leaders say it's not a matter of if the area code changes, but rather where and how. 812 will run out by 2015.

There's a public hearing to take people's comments on the issue Thursday night in Bloomington at 6:00 p.m. at Bloomington High School South. It's one of ten hearings across the state. You can also submit your comments by mail.

The IURC is expected to make a decision on the implementation of a new area code by the end of this year.