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State Utilities Commission Adding Three New Area Codes to State

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RALEIGH — The State Utilities Commission approved a plan to add three new area codesto the state, effective next year. It's a decision that adds to the cost of doing business on the phone.

One of the first things Jimmy Sink did when he opened his new shop in downtownWilson was to print business cards. Now he has to print a new batch with adifferent area code. Though he doesn't care for the added expense, heunderstands what lead to need for the change.

"All these fax machines, and computers and everything now have really beentying up some phone lines," said Sink.

Pagers, cell phones and extra phone lines have all created a demand whichthreatened to exhaust the capacity of phone companies, with just three area codes in the state.

"It's been exponential and it has outstripped everyone's expectations ofwhat the rate of growth would be," said Jo Anne Sanford, State UtilitiesCommission.

The last area code change is only three years old. Now many of those customers will have to change again, to new codes to be announced in a couple of weeks. Utilities Commission members knew whatever decision theymade would be unpopular.

"Nobody wants to change their phone number," "It is at best inconvenientand it is at worst expensive." said Sanford.

Sanford says it's not just a problem here, the same adjustments are occurring across the country. Though it is a sign of economic growth inbusinesses like Jimmy Sink's.

"We're really looking forward to going into the retail mail order end,"said Sink. "We do a lot of garden accessories, we're looking at going online."

That means Sink will be adding at least another phone line. He just hopesthe new area code will last awhile.

"Yeah it would be kind of aggravating every two or three years to have tochange your area code," said Sink.

The new area code numbers and the prefixes they'll effect will be announcedin a couple of weeks. There will be a transition period during which youcan call the old or new area code and be connected.

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