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Case 16-C-0297: 518 Area Code Relief



Neustar, the entity designated as the North American Numbering Plan Administrator (NANPA) by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to administer area codes throughout the U.S., determined that the 518 area code could run out of assignable telephone numbers in the third quarter of 2017. The area code serves all or part of seventeen counties in eastern upstate New York, including: Albany, Clinton, Columbia, Dutchess, Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Greene, Hamilton, Montgomery, Rensselaer, Saint Lawrence, Saratoga, Schenectady, Schoharie, Warren and Washington.


The New York State Public Service Commission (Commission) instituted a proceeding to develop a plan that provides long-term area code relief while minimizing disruption to consumers and businesses in the area. In September 2016, the Commission determined that the best way to meet demand for new telephone numbers in the region and minimize customer impact was to overlay a new area code over the existing code.

The Commission has prepared the following questions and answers to help people learn about area codes and the implementation of the new 838 area code.

Background Information on Area Codes

    Q. What is the purpose of area codes?
    A.Three-digit area codes were developed in 1947 to provide a uniform numbering system to permit people to make long distance calls without going through an operator. The North American Numbering Plan is a dialing plan, serving 20 North American countries, which allows point-to-point direct dialing between any two users in the world without operator assistance.
      Q. Why do area codes run out of telephone numbers?
        A. There is a limit to the number of telephone numbers available within an area code. Each telephone line is assigned a ten-digit number made up of a three-digit area code, a three-digit central office code and a four-digit station number. There are a limited number of central office codes because there are only three digits and it cannot start with “0” or “1”. With increased telephone competition and the explosion of new technologies such as cell phones and tablets, the need for new telephone numbers has accelerated in many areas in the State.
      Q. What is the Commission’s role?

      A. After receiving recommendations from the telecommunications industry, the Department of Public Service conducts an extensive review in which all interested residents, businesses and local organizations have the opportunity to comment on the options for introducing a new area code. The Commission subsequently determines the best way to introduce a new area code to a region with the least possible disruption to customers. For the 518 region, the Commission determined that an overlay would be the best option for area code relief.

      Area Code Relief

      Q. What is an overlay?
        A. There is a limit to the number of telephone numbers available within an area code. Each telephone line is assigned a ten-digit number made up of a three-digit area code, a three-digit central office code and a four-digit station number. There are a limited number of central office codes because there are only three digits and it cannot start with “0” or “1”. With increased telephone competition and the explosion of new technologies such as cell phones and tablets, the need for new telephone numbers has accelerated in many areas in the State.
      Q. How does it work?
        A. With an overlay, all current customers (wireline or wireless) within the region keep the 518 area code and seven digit number assigned to them. New telecommunication services will be assigned a new seven digit number with either an 838 or 518 area code.

        Once the overlay is established, all calls made within the 518/838 region will require ten digit dialing. This means that the three digit area code plus the seven digit telephone number will always have to be dialed when making a call within or between 518/838 numbers. Calls to numbers outside of the 518/838 region will require a 1 in front of the ten digit number.
      Q. How will the new area code be implemented?
      A.The new area code will be introduced in phases.

      •March 18, 2017: A permissive dialing period is established to allow people time to get used to the new ten digit dialing pattern. During the permissive dialing period, calls using either seven digits or ten digits (area code plus seven digit number) will be allowed.

      •August 19, 2017: A mandatory dialing phase begins at the end of the permissive dialing phase. At this point, callers must use the new dialing pattern to complete calls.

      •September 19, 2017: Carriers may begin assigning telephone numbers with the new 838 area code.

      Q. What will remain the same?

        A. The cost of a call, coverage area, rates and services will not change due to the overlay. In addition, calls to 911 can still be completed with three digits.
        Q. What will customers need to do?
          A.Customer should include the area code when giving their number to friends, family, business associates, etc. Customers should also ensure that equipment set to dial a seven digit number is reprogrammed to include the area code.
          For More Information

          Documents related to the Commission’s decision can be obtained by visiting the Commission’s website, www.dps.ny.gov and entering case number 16-C-0297 in the box labeled “Search for Case/Matter Number.”
          Below is a printable factsheet :
          518 area code QA Fact Sheet final 2-7-17.pdf518 area code QA Fact Sheet final 2-7-17.pdf


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