New York State regulators calling for a new area code in Suffolk County decided Thursday against geographically splitting eastern Long Island between 631 and a new three-digit number that has yet to be picked.
The New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) instead opted for what’s known as an overlay—meaning once 631 runs out of phone numbers in about two years, there will simply be a separate area code for new numbers added in Suffolk and all the existing numbers would remain unchanged.
“Given the reality of the way we communicate today, a new area code is needed to expand the numbers that are available,” said PSC chair Audrey Zibelman, noting that the proliferation of cell phones has increased demand for new phone numbers.
The North American Numbering Plan, which provides the basic numbering scheme for telephone networks in the United States, will assign the new three-digit number area code for Suffolk at a later date. Local telephone companies will be directed to activate the new area code by the end of 2016.
The PSC held public hearings on the issue and accepted written testimony, but the agency noted from the start that it preferred the overlay option. If the PSC had gone with a geographic split, the county would have been divided in a line across Smithtown and Islip towns.
The catch with the addition of the new overlay is that Suffolk callers will also have to dial 631 before calling numbers that already share their 631 area code.
The 631 area code has served Suffolk since it was split in 1999 from the 516 area code that has served Nassau County.