The central and southeast areas of Ohio have grown so significantly that by the second quarter of 2015, the 740 area code no longer may be able to serve all residents and businesses in need of a phone number.
The North American Numbering Plan Administrator, which controls the release of phone numbers, recently notified the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio that the area code will be exhausted and a new one must be created.
On Nov. 6, the commission began taking public comments on what the next step should be.
Until Nov. 27, those who have an interest in the potential area-code change can weigh in on two plans and cast a vote through the commission's website.
State law requires the commission to accept public comment on proposed new area codes, but this is the first time it's asking residents to do so online.
"We really want to engage the people that are ultimately going to be affected in this area," said commission spokesman Jason Gilham.
The first plan would create an overlay, which would allow the retention of all current 740 numbers, but require 10-digit dialing for local calls within the area. All new subscribers under this plan would receive a yet-to-be-determined new area code.
The second plan would divide the current 740 area into east and west sections, assigning current wireless and landline users in one of the sections a new area code. The region that would be assigned a new code is undetermined.
Gilham said the overlay plan has earned the favor of AT&T, Verizon and other industries, though local businesses have not yet been polled.
"From a business side, when you're looking at splits, there could be cost factors involved, such as letterheads, business cards or signage," he said. "With an overlay, you're just adding a new number to the existing area code."
An increase in the number of businesses that use credit-card machines, in addition to a growing population, are the major causes for the area-code limitation, Gilham said.
A five-member PUCO board will consider the vote and the comments before making the final decision, likely before the end of the year, Gilham said.
If the board decides to follow the split plan, that's when it also would build a formula to determine which numbers would have to be changed.
Gilham said the new area code also will remain unknown until after the board votes and submits its decision to the North American Numbering Plan Administrator.
To vote and comment, visit PUCO's website, puco.ohio.gov, and click on the "740 area code exhaust" link on the main page.
The commission also will accept mailed comments addressed to 180 E. Broad St., Columbus 43215.