The South Carolina Public Service Commission approved a plan Wednesday that would create a second area code for the Lowcounty and Pee Dee regions.
The commission’s vote came nearly three months after a telecommunications group filed a petition seeking the additional code. The petition by the North American Numbering Plan Administrator (NANPA) calls for relief in the state’s fast-growing 843 region along the coast and Pee Dee, predicting available phone numbers will run out in the region by late 2015 without the change. NANPA and its affiliated telecommunications companies are responsible for coordinating area codes in the U.S
The proposal offered by NANPA would create a “distributed overlay.” In other words, those who currently have 843 area code phone numbers would not have to change, but new customers would have a different code. The petition does not specify what the new number would be.
However, once the change goes into effect, all callers in the 843 region would have to begin dialing the full area code for all local calls (meaning a 10-digit number, rather than the normal 7 for local calls).
On Wednesday, the commission voted unanimously to skip a hearing and immediately grant relief for NANPA’s request. Commissioners cited overwhelming support in the telecommunications industry for the move, noting only one protest came from an out-of-state resident who expressed a “personal preference” for split codes.
The state Office of Regulatory Staff has been tasked with educating the public about the move. Director C. Dukes Scott said state officials believed the new code was needed as soon as possible.
“Landline phones are going down, but when you’re adding up the wireless, video IP, and other telephone numbers, you run out of numbers,” he told South Carolina Radio Network.
Sheree Bernardi of Charleston affiliate WTMA contributed to this report