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Northeast Florida is running out of phone numbers

Northeast Florida is running out of phone numbers as cellphones grow.
Richard Drew
AP file
The explosion of cellphones could mean a new area code for Northeast Florida.

Faced with the prospect of running out of telephone numbers, Northeast Florida could get an additional area code.

The Florida Public Service Commission has received a proposal to create a new area code in Jacksonville and nearby communities that have used the 904 area code for decades.

The reason: With increasing population and growing demands of cellphones and other technology, the region covered by the 904 area code could run out of available phone numbers in 2024, according to the proposal filed last week by the North American Numbering Plan Administrator, an organization that oversees area codes.

If approved by the Public Service Commission, the plan would involve what is known in the telecommunications industry as an “overlay.” A new area code would be added to the same territory covered by the 904 area code, with new customers receiving the new code.

“All existing customers would retain their current area code in the overlay area and would not have to change their telephone numbers,” the proposal said. However, 10-digit local dialing by all customers within and between (area codes) in the affected area would be required.”

The proposal is the latest in a series of similar moves as phone numbers get gobbled up across the state. The Public Service Commission on Feb. 1 approved an additional area code for Miami-Dade County and the Florida Keys because of the projected exhaustion of numbers in the 305 and 786 area codes. The commission said Friday the new South Florida area code will be 645.

“As Miami-Dade and the Florida Keys continue to attract new residents from all across our country and around the world, the new 645 area code will ensure that the demand for new lines is met,” commission Chairman Andrew Fay said in a prepared statement Friday.

The utility regulatory commission in December approved a new area code in Palm Beach County and in recent years approved new codes in Central Florida, Northwest Florida and the Tampa Bay region.

The 904 area code has been used since 1965 and includes communities such as Jacksonville, St. Augustine, Fernandina Beach, Orange Park, Macclenny and Starke.

It originally covered a much larger swath of North Florida, but it was split over the years into new area codes as supplies of numbers dwindled. Those splits involved creating the 352, 850 and 386 area codes.

The proposal asks the Public Service Commission to make a decision about the additional Northeast Florida area code by July 31. If approved, the changes would be carried out over a 13-month period.

Jim Saunders is the Executive Editor of The News Service Of Florida.