02/09/12 — New area code will change 919 dialing

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New area code will change 919 dialing

By Ty Johnson
Published in News on February 9, 2012 1:46 PM

Making local calls will require a touch more dexterity beginning March 31.

The N.C. Utilities Commission announced in January that the implementation of a new 984 area code would result in the requirement of 10-digit dialing within the 919 area code, including Goldsboro.

Calls made between the 919 area code to numbers in the 252, 336 and 910 area codes will require 10-digit dialing as well.

The new area code will be introduced through what's known as an in-service overlay, meaning beginning April 30, customers seeking new numbers within the current 919 area will be assigned the new 984 area code.

The additional area code has come due to an increase in population in the Triangle region, said Switzon Wigfall, senior operations analyst with the Utilities Commission.

"We've had substantial population growth in Raleigh, Chapel Hill and including the Goldsboro area in the past 10 years," he said. "With immigration, growth and a wider application of using phone numbers for cell phones we've exhausted the supply of numbers in 919."

The 984 area code will serve the same geographic area as 919, he said, in a similar move to what was done in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg area in 2001 when the 980 area code was overlaid into the existing 704 area code region.

The change felt by phone customers, he said, will come in the form of having to dial the area code for all local calls, even within the same area code.

"All local calls, which in the EAS (Extended Area Service) we currently implement using seven-digit dialing, will be transformed to 10-digit local dialing," he said. "The inconvenience is basically ... having to dial 10 digits."

But that annoyance emerged as the lesser of two evils, he said, as the alternative to the in-service overlay would be to do a geographical split of the region, leaving numbers in one region alone while converting numbers in the other to the 984 code. That alternative is expensive and time consuming, he said, noting that would result in rerouting and changing fax numbers on top of businesses and individuals having to change their numbers.

Wigfall said of the numbering relief options presented, those involved in the discussions, including members of the public and industry spokespersons, said the in-service overlay would be the better option.

The implementation of the in-service overlay will be just the second example of such a move in North Carolina, he said, noting that while there was resistance to the change in Mecklenburg County, the widespread use of cell phones would likely soften the blow for users in the Triangle and surrounding areas.

"We did receive customer concerns and some level of disdain for having to implement 10-digit local dialing in that market," he said, adding Charlotte's proximity to the South Carolina state line threw additional wrenches into the plan. "But from what we've experienced thus far, the growing use of cell phones has somewhat eased the transition and smoothed the level of acceptance than what might have been the case 10 to 15 years ago." he said.

Still other technological innovations could ease the move, he said, noting that speed-dialing and other similar advances have resulted in easier dialing no matter how many digits must be entered.

A release from the Utilities Commission encourages customers with automatic dialing equipment, including alarm or security systems, abbreviated dialing or similar systems to begin making changes to accommodate the new system.