Local News

Beginning Saturday, every call requires an area code

Posted March 30, 2012

— The next time you let your fingers do the walking, you'll have to dial a few extra digits.

Beginning Saturday, callers in Chatham, Durham, Franklin, Granville, Harnett, Johnston, Lee, Orange, Wake and Wayne counties will be required to dial the area code of the phone number they are calling for all calls. Local calls won't require a 1 or 0, but long-distance calls will still requite a 1 plus the area code and number.

Cell phone use now standard in public 984 area code consumer information

Three-digit emergency and information numbers, like 911 and 411, won't change. 

The main reason for the shift to 10-digit dialing is to make room for the new 984 area code, which will be assigned to new numbers as early as April 30. 

The state Utilities Commission says that the growing population in central North Carolina and the addition of services that require a phone number, such as cellphones and fax machines, is exhausting the available pool of numbers within the 919 area code. 

The area code change, called an overlay, is a deviation from how North Carolina has added numbers in the past. The 919 area code was split in March 1998 to accommodate a shortage of numbers, and the northeastern part of North Carolina was placed in a new 252 area code.

Instead of splitting 919, and requiring individuals and businesses to change their phone numbers, this time around the new area code will only be issued to new lines. Homes or businesses side-by-side could end up with different area codes, necessitating the use of 10-digit dialing.  

Charlotte-area residents have used 10-digit dialing for the past decade, when the 980 area code joined the longtime 704 area code.

Re-program speed dial before Saturday Re-program speed dial before Saturday

Cellphone users should check their speed dial settings and add 919 to local numbers, otherwise they won't work when you make a call. 

Businesses will be impacted by 10-digit dialing and the new area code as well. Signs, business cards, stationery and other promotional materials could need a face lift.

Jami-Laura Monaghan, with J. Edwin's Salon and Day Spa, said earlier this month that she had no immediate plans to add the additional digits to the phone number on the sign at her business.

"If it becomes an issue, then obviously we'll have to so it doesn't create a loss of business for us from the confusion of the phone number change," she said.

Stephanie Michel, who works at Boost Mobile by Triangle Wireless store on Capital Boulevard, said she is preparing for a busy weekend at work.

"I do expect to have customers coming in, saying, 'My phone's not working,'" she said. "I think it's going to take them awhile, to try to call someone and figure out, 'Well, l I tried to call you and it didn't work.' Well, you have to dial the area code now."

Customers' level of frustration will depend on how they've stored numbers in their phones.

"If you've stored your contacts from an incoming call, it's going to store that area code, and it has been for years," Michel said. 


This story is closed for comments.

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  • paradiselost Mar 30, 2012

    I wonder how many inadvertent 911 calls will be dialed?

  • JohnnyMcRonny Mar 30, 2012

    To those complaining about lack of notice etc from the telco's, don't any of you look at the inserts that come with your bills (if you get paper ones) or your on-line accounts? CenturyLink has been notifying me frequently about the change for the last six months. And what's the big whoop anyway? If you're quick enough, you can catch the last bus back to Cloud Cuckoo Land. Oh, don't bother calling me when you get there - it won't work.

    Good grief, Charlie Brown.

  • hintonpp2 Mar 30, 2012

    welcome to the 21st century

  • dcatz Mar 30, 2012

    "People who have numbers already could just have a 0 added to the end (so 555-1212 becomes 555-1212-0), and new numbers could fill up in between. This would give us a LOT more numbers to work with, instead of creating new area codes all the time.

    Why wouldn't that work, instead? 23tony"

    All of the exchange-level phone switches would have to be replaced. That isn't cheap.

    Just a quick search on eBay shows that a used DMS-100 (the type of phone switch most common around these parts) is going for $125,000 (http://www.ebay.com/itm/Nortel-DMS-SWITCH-DMS-100-TDMA-and-CDMA-/360159860836?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0).

    A new one could easily reach $500,000+, for exchanges with lots of subscribers, you'd need more than one and there are thousands of exchanges in North Carolina.

    The cost to add an additional digit to our phone numbers, nationwide, was estimated a few years back to be around $125,000,000,000.

  • 1775 Mar 30, 2012

    $640 million!

  • 23tony Mar 30, 2012

    Seems no matter what the suggestion is, people object. That's the real answer to my question, I think.

  • CaryMacGuy Mar 30, 2012

    I went through this in 2000 when I lived in Northern VA...they added 571 to the long standing 703 area code and it was an adjustment. Since then, I have dialed 10 digit numbers so this won't really be a big issue.

  • fayncmike Mar 30, 2012

    "Let's see:

    Adding a new area code over the existing one doubles the available numbers from 10 million to 20 million: (919) xxx-xxxx and (984) xxx-xxxx

    But if they simply added one digit, keeping the area code the same, they would get 100 million numbers - 10x the amount: (919) xxx-xxxx to (919) xxx-xxxx-x

    People who have numbers already could just have a 0 added to the end (so 555-1212 becomes 555-1212-0), and new numbers could fill up in between. This would give us a LOT more numbers to work with, instead of creating new area codes all the time.

    Why wouldn't that work, instead?

    Because, not that I like them, but it would mess up all the automated menu systems and that sort of thing

  • GinkgoPhyta Mar 30, 2012

    "(919) xxx-xxxx to (919) xxx-xxxx-x
    Why wouldn't that work, instead?"

    It is because there are standards. Having done many websites, using regex for many numbers (international too) to be able to indicate if a number is valid or not. Imagine if states started introducing off formats? It would cost a lot of money from a lot of people to implement the changes. Thats why there are standards too.

  • Scubagirl Mar 30, 2012

    For those just hearing about it, not sure how you missed it as it's been being advertised quite a bit over the last few weeks.