Local News

Beginning Saturday, every call requires an area code

Posted March 30, 2012 6:30 a.m. EDT
Updated March 30, 2012 8:10 p.m. EDT

— 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.

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.

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.