Of course, someone had to come up with “666.”
But there’s more than this to recent decisions that, at long last, Idaho will move out of its long-standing single area code and into the world of two of them.
The Public Utilities Commission, which oversees area codes, has faced the issue before and managed to kick it down the road. The need has been mentioned as far back as the 80s, but not really confronted head-on until 2001, when the national private company administering area codes figured that Idaho would run out of 208 numbers by the end of 2003. The PUC, putting off that day, cut the numbers assigned to phone companies in single blocks (from 10,000 to 1,000) for the Boise area, which bought some time. It used the same tactic a few years later, on a statewide basis, to buy more time. Now, at last, the game will be up in another three years.
After that, the state could go two ways: Either divide geographically (like it has with congressional districts), which would mean half of the state getting a new area code number. This would allow everyone to still make seven-digit local phone calls. But it would amount to a lot of hassle and changed phone numbers for a lot of people, so the likelihood is an “overlay” - starting a new area code right on top of 208, statewide. That would mean you have to dial an area code even if you’re calling two houses down. But it would also probably mean you can keep your existing phone numbers.
Much of Oregon uses an overlay system that works this way. On one hand, dialing the extra three numbers is a small annoyance. On the other hand, many numbers most of us call these days are programmed into smart phones and the like, so the practical difference is apt to be a lot smaller than in the days when people actually dialed their phone numbers. (Assuming here you’re among the shrinking group who used to use rotary phones? Never mind.) The overlay is a little complicated for callers, but keeping your accustomed number is probably a much bigger tradeoff, especially for businesses and other organizations but for many residents too. A lot of people still do, after all, have local phone tethers, even if they use wireless signals for their local numbers instead of wires (as our house does).
The PUC is taking comments on all this through October 6.
Comes next, of course, the question of what new three-number area code Idaho should get.
It can’t be one already in use elsewhere, which limits the possibilities. The “666” suggestion noted above actually would work, since for some reason no one has gotten it assigned to their local area. But it doesn’t seem very likely for Idaho.
The lively crowd at the Spokane Spokesman-Review’s Huckleberries blog has come up with some additional suggestions too, based on the letters attached to the numbers. You could get GEM (436), which isn’t in use elsewhere. Someone suggested GOP (467), also not in use.
Others suggested that apparently would qualify include LDS (537), LOL (565), or 384 (DUH).
What’s your preference?