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Confusion on area codes eases as time passes

Here is some friendly advice to southern Hoosiers: Switching area codes may be less of a headache than having more than one.

The southern third of Indiana, which has used the 812 area code since 1947, is expected to run out of new phone numbers by 2015. The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission is studying whether the best solution is to split the area geographically, giving one area a new code, or to overlay a new code on top of the existing district. Those who already have the 812 area code would keep their current numbers. Any new phone lines would be assigned the new area code. The overlay method means the area will have two different codes and people will have to dial the area code, even for local calls.

The Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor, the agency charged with representing customer interests, is recommending the overlay.

For people with an existing 812 number, the idea of not having to change it sounds appealing. Often there are costs involved, such as new letterhead and business cards. But in the long run the one-time inconvenience is easier than having to deal with two area codes for the same city.

A similar situation happened in the northern third of Indiana in 2002 when the 219 area code ran out of capacity. A drawing from a fishbowl dictated that Fort Wayne convert to 260 while northwest Indiana got to keep 219. The adjustment was a temporary inconvenience, and now 260 is home.

License fee snafu sets BMV back

How much did you pay the last time you renewed your license? A class-action lawsuit alleges it was a randomly set number, and the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles admits it “may have inadvertently” overcharged motorists.

Indianapolis attorney Irwin B. Levin claims the BMV collected millions of dollars more than allowed. His lawsuit claims the agency overcharged from $4 to $7 more than allowed by state law for licenses granted to drivers younger than 75. Drivers 75 and older obtain a different type of license, and the suit does not challenge those charges.

The BMV’s response to the lawsuit is alarming.

Not only does it acknowledge motorists might have been overcharged, it also acknowledges “a significant number of drivers” might have been affected.

The lawsuit represents a disappointing turn for an agency transformed from a customer-service nightmare to a textbook model of efficiency. Hoosiers should be able to trust a state agency to charge authorized rates.