BY JIM TURNER
NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA
TALLAHASSEE – An additional area code, the state’s 20th, was approved for the Tampa region Tuesday as numbers in the decades-old 813 area code are running out.
The Florida Public Service Commission voted, without discussion, to a 13-month implementation of what is known as an “overlay” plan that will add the yet-to-be-determined number in the existing 813 area.
Commission Chairman Gary Clark called the plan “customer friendly,” as current phone customers won’t be required to take on the new area code.
“As one of the most populous areas of Florida, Hillsborough County has thriving businesses and growing communities,” Clark said in a prepared statement. “Add all the new technologies that require telephone numbers to this, and it’s not surprising that a new area code is needed.”
Clark and Commissioner Art Graham, seated with a chair between them, were in person at the Betty Easley Conference Center for the meeting while other commissioners attended via video streams from their homes because of the coronavirus.
The demand for new telephone numbers has been growing rapidly, “resulting in a shortage of available numbers in many areas,” according to the Public Service Commission. That stems from factors such as population increases and cellular phones.
The 813 region is centered on Tampa and includes surrounding communities such as Brandon, Land O’ Lakes, Oldsmar, Riverview, Thonotosassa, Town ‘n’ Country, Valrico and Zephyrhills.
With the implementation of the additional area code, the region isn’t expected to face the need for another area code for 37 years.
The new area code, which will be issued to new phone customers and customers adding lines, will be assigned by the North American Numbering Plan Administrator, an agency that governs phone numbers across the United States.
813 running out
The administrator forecast last year that the 813 area code would run out in 2022.
The commission held workshops on the proposal in February in Tampa and St. Petersburg, but no customer comments were offered, according to a Public Service Commission 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.