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Changes in dialing coming to 716 area code

Ten-digit dialing, including area code for local calls, will be required in order to accommodate the new national suicide prevention hotline.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — 2 On Your Side viewer Jeff Aichinger contacted us to report that he recently received an email from his phone provider, alerting him that the Federal Communications Commission is changing the structure that callers need to follow to place phone calls.

The change requires that to place local calls, you will now need to dial the area code, along with the number that is normally dialed with seven digits.

Why the change?

The reason for the 10-digit dialing is the is the planned addition of a three-digit number, 988, that can be called from anywhere in the country to reach the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.

As a result, any area code that use 988 prefixes in telephone numbers is mandated by the FCC to adopt 10-digit dialing.

716 happens to be among those, and is one of 82 area codes in 37 states across the nation where this change will take effect.

According to an industry trade publication, the change will apply to landlines, cell phones, and VoIP systems as well. It will also apply to customers of all phone service providers within the affected area codes.

According to a customer advisory posted by T-Mobile, which mirrors that of several other carriers, “Beginning April 24, 2021, you should begin dialing 10 digits (area code + telephone number) for all local calls. If you forget and dial just seven digits, your call will still be completed.

Beginning October 24, 2021, you must dial 10 digits (area code + telephone number) for all local calls. On and after this date, local calls dialed with only seven digits may not be completed, and a recording will inform you that your call cannot be completed as dialed. You must hang up and dial again using the area code and the seven-digit number.

The timeline for the Implementation of these changes may vary from carrier to carrier, although October 24 is the firm deadline for 10-digit dialing for all of them.

Aichinger, though, has already noticed some changes with his carrier.

“We’ve tried to make some calls recently using the traditional seven-digit numbers, and we get 'unable to complete the call' messages,” he said.

It also left him to complete an additional task which others may soon find themselves tending to.

“In my contacts, several of them were preprogrammed only with seven digits, so I had to go back in and edit them, to add in area codes,” he said.

More than phones

In addition to changing the way you dial local calls, public service commissions have advised that automatic dialing equipment, or other types of equipment that are programmed to complete calls to seven-digit local numbers will need to be reprogrammed to complete calls to 10-digit numbers.

These include, but are not limited to, medical monitoring devices, PBXs, fax machines, Internet dial-up numbers, and fire or burglar alarm and security systems.

In addition, businesses are advised to “check your website and business stationery, advertising materials, personal and business checks, contact information, and other such items to ensure the area code is included.”

What will remain the same?

According to T-Mobile’s advisory (and advisories from other carriers)

  • Your telephone number, including current area code, will not change.
  • The price of a call, coverage area, or other rates and services will not change due to the dialing change.
  • What is a local call now will remain a local call regardless of the number of digits dialed.
  • You will continue to dial 1+ area code + telephone number for all long distance calls.
  • You can still dial just three digits to reach 711 (relay services) and 911 (emergency services).
  • Any 211, 311, 411, 511, 611, or 811 services available in your community can still be reached by dialing their three-digit codes.
  • The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can still be reached by dialing 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

I already have to do this

In some parts of the country, particularly highly urbanized areas where more than one area code serves the same geographic area, 10-digit dialing has been in place for several years.

But it was for a different reason.

To address the proliferation of cell phones and the need to provide additional service for a  growing number of customers (and where phone numbers were becoming exhausted), new area codes were established within the same geographic area.

In the parlance of the industry, this is called an “area code overlay.”

This allowed current customers to keep their area code and telephone number, and for providers to issue new ones (in some cases using the same seven digits as issued to someone else), but with a new area code.

But because of this, all calls in those areas had to be dialed with 10 digits (the area code + the seven-digit telephone number) in order to keep calls from being misrouted.

As it is common for people to move from one part of the country and to keep their current cell phones, those who have moved from places where there was an area code overlay have become quite accustomed to it.