Another area code planned for Tampa Bay area

State utility regulators next week could approve a plan to bring an additional area code to the Tampa region.

The North American Numbering Plan Administrator, which oversees telephone numbering across the U.S. and other countries, has proposed creating what is known as an “all-services overlay” as numbers in the 813 area code --- all of Hillsborough County, Oldsmar in Pinellas County and parts of Pasco County --- are forecast to be exhausted during the third quarter of 2022.

Under the plan, which the Florida Public Service Commission will consider next Tuesday, a new area code would be added --- or overlaid --- in the same area. Current customers would keep the 813 area code and their numbers, but new customers and additional lines would receive the new area code.

Also, all local calls in the area would require 10-digit dialing.

Public Service Commission staff members have recommended the all-services overlay option over other possibilities, such as imposing a “boundary elimination” overlay across the 813 and 727 area codes. The 727 area code covers most of Pinellas County and part of Pasco County.

That possible option would provide the longest forecast time before another area code would be needed in the region, an estimated 41 years. However, commission staff members said the idea would “involve a more complex customer education process and lead to increased customer confusion.”

The new area code, which would become the 20th in Florida, has yet to be released. It would be expected to last 37 years before another change is required.

The North American Numbering Plan Administrator is requesting the commission approve a 13-month implementation schedule, which would include a six-month “permissive period” when people could dial seven or 10 digits for local calls.

“The purpose of the permissive dialing period is to facilitate transition from 7-digit to 10-digit dialing by educating customers on the impending changes without impacting the calls,” a staff analysis of the proposal said.

Next Tuesday’s meeting will be livestreamed on the Public Service Commission website and can be seen on The Florida Channel. Because of the COVID-19 outbreak, the meeting room will be closed to the public. People who want to participate in the meeting must contact the commission general counsel’s office by noon Monday.

The commission held workshops on the proposal in February in Tampa and St. Petersburg, but no customer comments were offered, according to the staff report. Since that time, the commission has received a single customer comment, which favored the proposal.

A similar overlay was approved last year for the current 850 area code, which covers 18 counties and is used in cities such as Tallahassee, Panama City and Pensacola. The new area code, 448, is expected to start in 2021 in that region.

The 813 area code, the second oldest in Florida, was created in 1953 and served a 16-county region from Pasco County to inland portions of Monroe County. It was split to create the 941 area code in 1995 and the 727 area code in 1998.