Southwestern Pennsylvania to get new '878' area code

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There's a new area code coming to town.

Get ready to get used to 878. That's the new three-digit area code phone users in Western Pennsylvania will begin to see assigned as the number of available 412 and 724 numbers dwindles, the state Public Utility Commission announced today.

It's not clear yet when the first 878 number will be assigned, said Denise McCracken, a spokeswoman for the commission. But the 724 area code is expected to run out of available numbers soon.

"It's right around the corner," she said. "It could be anywhere from two weeks from now to even a year from now."

The supply of 412 numbers available is also running low, but exhaustion is not as imminent, she said.

A combination of factors led to the gobbling up of available permutations of 724 and 412 numbers, namely an increase in the number of people in Western Pennsylvania and an increase in the number of phone numbers held per person, Ms. McCracken said.

"If you think about it, as one person you can have as many as four lines just assigned to you, whether it be your land line, your office line, your work cell phone, your personal cell phone," she said. "What we are seeing, is people are applying [for] more lines."

The 412 number, designated for the city of Pittsburgh and suburbs, came into service in the late 1940s or early 1950s and the 724 code, which covers several counties surrounding Pittsburgh, came into existence in February 1998, said John Manning, director for the North American Numbering Plan Administration in Sterling, Va., which has been in charge of assigning phone numbers since 1997.

Current customers with 412 and 724 numbers may keep their area codes and their phone numbers after the supply runs out, but new customers or people who want an additional line will soon be assigned an 878 number.

Still, anytime a change is made to phone numbers, it takes some time to get used to, Ms. McCracken said.

"Anytime we discuss release plans for the exhaustion of area codes, it tends to be a hot button issue for consumers," she said.

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Kaitlynn Riely: kriely@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1707.


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