Residents of Southwestern Pennsylvania will soon be introduced to the 8-7-8 when officials roll a new area code into the region this year.
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission announced Friday that an implementation plan will be activated for the new 878 code because nearly all of the region’s 724 and 412 numbers have been exhausted.
“Right now, there’s about 790 numbers still available,” said PUC deputy press secretary Denise McCraken. “It could take anywhere from a couple of weeks until the end of the year. It really comes down to how many people are in need of the new lines.”
In July 2001, officials split the 412 area code, adding 724 for areas outside of the city of Pittsburgh and making 10-digit dialing mandatory. The 724 area code includes all or parts of 14 counties, including Washington and Greene.
Unlike in 2001, residents won’t have to worry about their numbers changing. The remaining 724 numbers will be handed out on a first-come-first-served basis before the new 878 phone lines are activated with an overlay distribution. An overlay occurs when more than one area code serves customers in the same geographic region.
“We don’t expect any disruption,” said Verizon spokesman Lee Gierczynski. “An overlay has been the preferred method of introducing new area codes because it’s the least disruptive to customers that have existing lines. It also has less of an effect on businesses who would have to change stationary and business documents.”
Demand for new lines has caused the area to run out of exchange codes, or prefixes – the second set of three-digit numbers in a phone number. The commission has had a plan in place to employ an 878 area code in the area since the 724 code was created, but a number of conservation methods have prolonged the life of the two-code region for more than a decade.
“I don’t see it happening right away, but if customers do start to see the 878 area code out there, it’s important for them to know that it’s not really going to impact how they make calls or how they’re billed,” Gierczynski said. “It also won’t change local call rates or dialing 911.”