It will be nearly a decade before Mainers have to contend with the disaster splitting the state into two area codes.
The latest forecast shows the 207 area code will hang on until at least September 2032, three and half years longer than previously expected, according to the Maine Public Utilities Commission.
The utilities commission began closely monitoring the 207 area code’s lifespan in 2018 as the number of service providers in the state increased, placing more demands on the shrinking pool of numbers. That’s despite only about 38 percent of numbers being in use.
“This is one of the longest extensions of our exhaust date since we began our work to preserve Maine’s single area code,” Chair Philip L. Bartlett II said in a Thursday statement.
Rumors of the 207 area code’s exhaustion have become a regular occurrence in recent years. Its last call was forecasted, in 2015, to occur by early 2019. That was then extended to 2024, and again to 2025, 2027, 2029 and now 2032.
In 2021, the prospect of splitting Maine into two area codes prompted the state’s congressional delegation to call on the U.S. Federal Communications Commission to work with state regulators to save the 207, calling it a “cultural touchstone” and its preservation a “matter of efficiency.”
The commission said Thursday it has successfully worked with carriers to return more than 750,000 unused numbers to the 207 pool for future use.
“We believe that our continued efforts to ensure numbers are used in the most efficient manner possible could extend the life of Maine’s single area code out until the 2050’s,” Bartlett said.
Maine is just one of 11 states with just a single area code. But the problem facing the 207 is just a part of a larger dilemma facing the nation broadly. The U.S. could run out of area codes by 2051, which could prompt the switch from 10-digit to 12-digit phone numbers. Such a change could cost an estimated $270 billion, according to the utilities commission.
Regulators continue to pursue other options to extend the lifespan of the 207, and the utilities commission hopes Maine’s efforts could become a model for other states seeking to preserve dwindling phone number pools.