AUGUSTA (AP) – Maine will be able to maintain a single area code until the first quarter of 2012, according to a recent report by the entity responsible for administering the numbers.

The new time frame in which the 207 area code can remain in use statewide is a far cry from the North American Numbering Plan Administrator’s 1998 forecast that Maine would need a new area code by 2000.

Maine, one of only 14 states with one area code, has used 207 since 1947.

The Public Utilities Commission says its successful use of phone number conservation measures has made it possible to push back the date by which the 207 numbers would be exhausted.

The PUC led a nationwide effort by state regulators to get the Federal Communications Commission to change its rules to allow more efficient methods for allocating numbers.

One such method is thousand-block number pooling, in which carriers are given blocks of 1,000 numbers rather than 10,000 for each exchange they serve. Maine, a rural state with many small towns, was one of the first to turn to that method, which has proven effective in increasing the efficiency of number usage.

Each area code has 7.92 million telephone numbers, or 10,000 for each of 792 available prefixes. There are 562 prefixes already assigned in Maine; about 190 prefixes, accounting for 1.9 million phone numbers, remain for use.

When the national numbering scheme was adopted in 1947, there were 86 area codes used in the United States and Canada; 35 states had a single area code. There are now 680 usable area codes in the United States, of which 324 are now in use.

The commission said Mainers should not be burdened by the costs and inconveniences associated with new area codes when effective conservation measures can avoid the need for a new area code.

“Given that six years ago, the North American Numbering Plan Administrator told us that a new area code would be needed by June of 2000, we believe our efforts have been well spent and will continue to benefit Maine consumers and businesses for many years to come,” said Tom Welch, PUC chairman.

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