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Second W.Va. area code becoming more frequent

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia's second telephone area code, little used since it was made operational in March 2009, is being dialed in increasing frequency in recent months.

Susan Small, director of communications for the West Virginia Public Service Commission, said the most recent records available from the North American Numbering Plan, the organization that assigns new area codes, show that 61,984 homes and businesses now use area code 681.

West Virginia was one of the last states in the U.S. to be covered by a single area code -- 304 -- due to its low population density. But by the early 2000s, the state was approaching the threshold needed to justify a second area code.

In January 2008, the PSC voted to add the new area code, and assign it to phone customers in the eastern and northern parts of the state, while Southern West Virginia retained Area Code 304. One month later, responding to concerns from phone carriers and the public, the PSC revisited the January vote and voted instead to implement area code 681 as an "overlay" for the entire state.

That way, no existing customers in the state using area code 304 would have to change their phone numbers, making the new area code available only to new subscribers across the state.

By January 2012, only 87 Frontier Communications phone subscribers in West Virginia had been assigned Area Code 681, according to an Associated Press account from that time. Now, there are nearly 8,000 Frontier customers using Area Code 681.

According to Frontier spokesman Dan Page, 6,719 customers of his company in the Bridgeport area use Area Code 681, along with 246 customers in the Charleston area, 797 in and around Snowshoe in Pocahontas County, and 40 customers in Raleigh County's Shady Spring area.

Suddenlink spokesman Michael Kelemen said nearly 2,000 Suddenlink customers in Kanawha and Putnam counties now use 681 as their area code.

The bulk of the state's remaining area code 681 users are cellphone users. Reach Rick Steelhammer at rsteelhammer@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5169.


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