Officials say Nebraska won’t run out of phone numbers anytime soon

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – If you’ve had to get a new phone number, you may have wondered: Will we ever run out of numbers?

There have been rumors that Nebraska will soon need a new area code, but the Nebraska Public Service Commission said that won’t happen for a long time.

Cullen Robbins, the commission’s director of telecommunications, said there’s a lot of factors that go into predicting when an area will run out, but it happens more in places with a higher population.

“It really comes down to projected demand for use of numbers in the area codes,” Robbins said. “Sometimes technologies can change, and numbers get eaten up pretty quickly, but at this time we don’t project that area codes in Nebraska are going to exhaust anytime soon.”

Currently, the western part of Nebraska is covered by the 308 area code, while the east is covered by the 402 and 531 codes.

That’s where it can get confusing. The 402 and 531 codes cover the same area but are interchangeable.

“It can certainly be confusing for some people if you see a 531 number and wonder, ‘Is that even a Nebraska number?’ ” Robbins said. “If you have a home phone and someone across the street has a home phone, and your number is 402 but theirs is 531, you can still call them locally.”

The PSC said it monitors the numbers in Nebraska and looks at requests for new numbers by carriers to determine when an area is getting close to running out.

That’s what happened a few years ago when the 402 code began to run out of numbers. The 531 code was overlaid onto the same area, allowing for new numbers to be created.

Robbins said the other option in that situation would’ve been to split up the 402 area and have everyone in the new area change their number.

“And that was kind of decided that that wasn’t a preferable way to go” he said. “You’d have to make a lot of people switch a lot of telephone numbers. And the overlay method allowed people to keep their number. They would have to implement 10-digit dialing, but it would still allow for calling behaviors to basically be the same.”

Currently, the 308 area code isn’t projected to be exhausted until 2040, and the 402/531 area code won’t run out until 2069, almost 50 years from now.

The PSC said there are fewer 402 numbers available to carriers right now, but with the 531 number, there isn’t a risk of running out any time soon.

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