The 631 area code used for Suffolk County telephone calls will run out of assignable phone numbers in two years, and residents can comment on proposed solutions at public hearings next week.

The New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) proposed two options for adding a new area code to the county. The first is the industry’s preferred option of an overlay, which allows everyone to keep their number so that only new ones get the new area code. Or, there could be a geographic split, which would divide the county into two regions each with its own area code—meaning half the county would have their existing numbers changed.

“The Public Service Commission is very much interested in hearing public comment on this area code issue,” said James Denn, a spokesman for the commission. “Those comments will be considered as part of the commission’s decision making process.”

Neustar, a corporation that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) designated as the North American Numbering Plan Administrator (NANPA), warned the PCS in May that Suffolk’s 631 numbers are expected to run out in early 2016.

“Within three years of an area code exhausting, what will happen is NANPA will bring the industry together to look at the available options and put together a consensus recommendation,” said John Manning, the senior director of NANPA.

The 631 area code has served Suffolk County since it was split from the 516 area code that serves Nassau County in 1999. What three digits would make up the proposed new area code was not yet known.

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If the overlay option is used, Suffolk would have area code relief for about 45 years, according to NANPA’s current projection. The downside? Current FCC regulations would require 10-digit dialing within the county once the overlay is put in place.

A geographic split, on the other hand, would divide the county into two different area codes in a north-south line down the western edges of Smithtown, Central Islip and Islip. NANPA projects that telephone numbers for the area west of the line would exhaust in about 44 years. Numbers to the east would exhaust in about 47 years.

Although residents and businesses with existing telephone numbers in the new area would be required to adopt the new area code, a geographic split would not require 10-digit dialing within the same area code.

In its warning to the PSC, NANPA recommended the overlay over the geographic split. The last geographic split used for area code relief was in New Mexico in 2007, according to Manning.

“The overlay is easier to implement,” Manning said. “When you start subdividing areas, they get smaller and smaller until they lose any geographic significance.”

The four public hearings will be held on the following two dates:

Tuesday, July 15
Evans K. Griffing Building, 300 Center Dr., Riverhead. 1 p.m.: Informational Forum. 2 p.m.: Public Hearing.
Sachem Public Library, 150 Holbrook Rd., Holbrook. 6:30 p.m.: Informational Forum. 7:30 p.m.: Public Hearing.

Wednesday, July 16
William H. Rogers Legislative Building, 725 Veterans Memorial Hwy., Smithtown. 1 p.m.: Informational Forum. 2 p.m.: Public Hearing.
South Huntington Public Library, 145 Pidgeon Hill Rd., Huntington Station. 6 p.m.: Informational Forum. 7 p.m.: Public Hearing.


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