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New Area Code 984 for the Triangle

January 05, 2012

BY JOHN MURAWSKI - Staff Writer - N&O

Triangle residents who have identified with 919 as their area code for more than a half-century will soon have to get used to dialing a new number.
The region is slated to received a second area code - 984 - to accommodate a booming population and the proliferation of cellphones. The nation's phone number administrator has alerted public officials in the region that the Triangle could exhaust all phone numbers in the 919 area code within a year.
The N.C. Utilities Commission this week gave phone companies a month to come up with a strategy and a schedule to add a second area code. The change will involve a public education campaign and bill inserts to get residents used to the idea.
Once the area code is added - which could happen later this year - all local calls will require 10-digit dialing, as is now the practice in Charlotte and other parts of the country. Only new numbers will be assigned 984 codes.
"It doesn't take peoplevery long to remember," said Wayne Milby, a number relief planner for NeuStar, the Virginia company that administers phone numbers for the nation's telecommunications industry. "If you don't dial 10 digits, you'll get a recording saying 'hang up and dial again.' "
Get ready to reprogram
Callers will have to reprogram their phones to add an area code to the 7-digit local numbers stored in phone memories. They also may have to reprogram home alarm systems that aren't set to call a 1-800 number when tripped.
The change will mean that some neighbors will have different area codes. As will some spouses. Even the same person can end up with different area codes at work, home and on a cellphone.
Phone companies will likely have to make it clear to customers that 10-digit dialing does not result in getting charged for a long-distance call, said Susan Scott, general manager for Durham operations at Frontier Communications, a phone company with 178,000 customers in the state.
Long distance calls will require 11 digits - with the area code preceded by a 1. Several local merchants predicted it will take months for residents to accept 984 as an equal partner with 919.
"Most people identify 919 with being local," say Ryan Elliott, a manager at The Wine Merchant in Raleigh. "For some period of time, when people see 984 they may not realize it's down the street."
Cellphone users with AT&T Wireless and some other carriers may not have to adjust their mind-set, since they already dial 10 digits as part of their calling plan.
Several dozen phone companies will be affected by the change, including AT&T, Frontier, CenturyLink, TimeWarner, as well as a number of smaller competitors.
"This is pretty commonplace," said Jayne Eve, vice president of state governmental affairs for Windstream, with nearly 270,000 customers in the state. "Eventually, we'll all end up with 10 digits."
The 984 area code was picked for the Triangle a decade ago when the region was expected to run short of phone numbers at the time. But the industry was able to stretch available numbers by assigning them to phone companies in blocks of 1,000 instead of 10,000, thus reducing the number of assigned numbers that were not being used.
As of today, roughly 95 percent of phone numbers in the 919 area code have been used.
Just as some regions are wrapping their collective brains around the concept of dual area codes, a half-dozen high-population areas now juggle three area codes, including Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, New York and Pittsburgh.
At least one local business is eagerly awaiting the arrival of the new area code - 919 Marketing in Raleigh.
"919 has always been the shorthand for the Triangle, the Capital," said company CEO David Chapman. "When people see 919, it's going to tell them that we've been around for a long time. I see it as a mark of distinction for us."

Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/2011/05/11/1189470/triangle-getting-new-set-of-digits.html#storylink=cpy

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