Northern New York Newspapers
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Sun., Oct. 4
Serving the communities of Jefferson, St. Lawrence and Lewis counties, New York
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Complete the call


“If you’re fed up with seeing the plan for a new area code being kept on hold, press 1 now.”

There’s nothing wrong with government agencies obtaining public input on major projects in the works. In such cases, more is quite often better.

But at some point, decisions must be made to push the plan forward. The Public Service Commission is facing this moment of truth, and it needs to get moving.

For the past several years, the PSC has warned that the 18 counties using the 315 area code will run out of phone numbers. It has proposed several remedies, and one has been repeatedly favored.

This plan calls for an overlay district to be created with a different area code. Any new phone numbers assigned after a certain point will be given this area code. Those who use 315 already will continue to do so.

Of course, what most phone customers would like is for no action to be taken at all.

Few are wild about changing from 315 to something else. Many companies would be forced to spend money to update items like their stationary, business cards and computer databases if they were given a new area code.

And there are those who chafe at the thought of having to dial 10 digits rather than seven to make a local call. A new neighbor on their block would have a different area code, and perhaps it would be easier just to yell out the window.

Doing nothing is not an option, however. The reality is that there is a finite list of phone numbers available in the 315 area code, so we’ll have to confront this annoyance sooner or later.

And according to the PSC, sooner is creeping ever closer. PSC officials thought a few years ago that we would have crossed that horizon by now, but they revised their prediction.

They said in 2009 that the recession had slowed the demand for new numbers, so the end of the tunnel wouldn’t come until 2013. They postponed moving ahead with a plan until, well, later.

And now that it’s 2013, the PSC says we’ll exhaust all phone numbers by early 2015. And it continues to solicit comments from residents on this plan.

This is not to criticize the need to thoroughly examine how a proposal will impact people, and naturally this requires getting their input. But the PSC has periodically asked for public comments on this idea for several years.

And of all the options presented, most groups have said they prefer to see an overlay district created with a new area code. In December 2010, a state administrative judge recommended this plan as the best alternative.

People have until July 31 to offer their ideas on the proposal to the PSC, and we encourage everyone to participate. But there is no evidence that the outcome will be any different: New phone numbers are needed, and an overlay district will cause the fewest problems.

Callers will have to get used to dialing 10 digits, even if it is just across the street. The tremendous increase in cellphone use in the last few years has made calling 10-digit numbers routine for many of us, so what’s the problem?

And the PSC must stop postponing the inevitable and create an overlay district with its own area code. The earlier this change is made, the sooner everyone will get over it.

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