It's been only 11 years since Area Code 717 was split and Area Code 570, which serves a large section of our coverage area, emerged.

Now, both 717 and 570 areas are quickly running out of numbers and a state agency plans to take action.

On Feb. 2 at 6 p.m., The Pa. Public Utility Commission will be hosting a hearing at Jim Thorpe Memorial Hall to determine whether to split the 570 area or to have a new area code overlap.

Hearings are also scheduled in Wilkes-Barre, on Feb. 1; in Williamsport on Feb. 3, and in Scanton on Feb.

Jennifer Kocher, press secretary for the PUC, said the 570 area code is projected to run out of telephone numbers in the third quarter of 2011.

Kocher said new area codes are needed when existing area codes exhaust their supply of "NXX" codes (which is the second set of three digits in a 10-digit telephone number).

The hearing will be conducted by Administrative Law Judge Ember S. Jandebeur.

There are 21 counties that have the 570 area code.

Kocher said there are four relief alternatives for ensuring adequate number resources. One is an overlay of a new area code.

Other options include splitting the area code region and adding new codes. For example, Scranton and Wilkes-Barre could potentially keep the 570 area code while customers in Schuylkill and surrounding areas could be assigned a new one.

Members of the public can attend the public hearings and provide comments.

Kocher said customer testimony will become part of the record on which the PUC will issue its final decision.

The PUC and state Office of Consumer Advocate offer tips on how to participate. They include:

Ÿ Prepare what you are going to say beforehand. Even though it is not required, you may want to write out your statement, which can be read.

Ÿ Bring copies. If you have a written statement you would like to give to the judge as evidence, bring two copies for the court reporter and several additional copies for other participants.

Ÿ Plan to be questioned. Parties in the case may want to ask you a question to clarify something you said.

Overlapping area codes has occurred in several parts of the state including the 610 area code.

Created in anticipation of number exhaustion in the area code 215 serving the Southeastern Pa., area code 610 was split off January 8, 1994

Further growth in the region over the subsequent five years spurred the introduction of overlay plans in the Commonwealth, with area code 484 being overlaid upon 610 in 1999, along with the introduction of mandatory ten-digit dialing.

Area code 835 was to be an additional overlay onto 610 and 484, announced by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission in 2000, but newly developed, more efficient number pooling measures were introduced obviating the need for the new area code.

The Commission formally withdrew plans for the new code on June 23, 2005, although the code remains reserved for later use within the Commonwealth if necessary.

Whenever a new area code is introduced, there are financial concerns of the residents and businesses with the affected area. Businesses, especially, must order stationery with the new area code. Residents and businesses must change speed dialing machines, faxes, and on-phone directories.

If overlays occur, the new area code would not be assigned until all existing numbers are exhausted.