PORTLAND, Maine — A public commission examining whether Maine needs to add a new area code has determined it likely does, though it is asking telecommunications companies for more information.
Last week, Maine’s Public Utilities Commission opened an investigation into the number of unused phone numbers in the 207 area code, and asked providers to detail the number of blocks they hold with less than 100 phone numbers in use.
In April, the commission opened an inquiry into extending Maine’s beloved area code, 207. It determined the code is “exhausted,” meaning there are not enough available numbers to meet expected demand, the Portland Press Herald reported.
But the inquiry also found that only 37 percent of 207 numbers are currently in use. The reason has to do with the way phone numbers are divided between service providers and geographies.
Providers like AT&T, or local telecommunications provider GWI, distribute numbers from a block of 1,000 that all start with the same three numbers following the area code. If the provider has assigned more than 100 numbers in that block, it is considered “contaminated,” and reserved exclusively for that provider’s use in that location.
The commission’s inquiry explains that method of distribution and reserving of number blocks is one reason there are not enough 207 numbers to go around. Increased use of wireless devices is another.
The commission also studied other ways to extend the life of 207 as an area code, but concluded: “The path of least resistance is, of course, to accept that a new area code in Maine is imminent and to take the necessary steps to smoothly implement the new area code.”
Telecommunications companies have until Aug. 3 to respond to the investigation’s request for information about unused 207 numbers they hold in 1,000 blocks with less than 100 numbers assigned.