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FCC to require area code for short-distance phone calls

by SAM FLETCHER
Staff Writer | March 30, 2021 1:00 AM

Area code 509 phone numbers are the last in the state to transition to 10-digit dialing only, as required by the Federal Communications Commission, to make way for the new three-digit National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 988, launching July 16, 2022.

According to a Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) press release, beginning April 24, telecommunications service providers will allow 10-digit dialing for short distance calling. Starting October 24, seven-digit numbers without the area code may not go through. In July 2022, this change will be solidified across the country.

Long-distance calling will not be affected, said UTC media and communications manager Emilie Brown. Callers will continue to add ‘1-509’ before their seven-digit number. For short distance calls, they will have to put ‘509’ first.

Requiring a full nine or 10-digit entry will ensure residents of the 988 area code, in Michigan, won’t have trouble making or receiving calls once the lifeline number comes into effect.

“That’s the big difference, is making sure they can keep their same number and folks can reach the hotline,” Brown said.

Ten-digit dialing will not affect the price of calls, coverage areas or any other three-digit lines such as 911, 711 and 211, the release said.

In 2017, the UTC switched every western Washington area code, starting with 360, to require 10-digit dialing because they were running out of phone numbers, Brown said. Because of the new suicide prevention lifeline, the 509 area code now has to make the change.

For the average person, all this means is to include the area code for short-distance calling, Brown said, and a lot of people already do this.

“Their telephone carrier should make the change on their end, so it’s just remembering to type in those three extra digits,” she said.

According to the release, businesses should remember to include the “509” before their number in advertising materials.

For folks with safety and security equipment, such as medical alert devices, newer devices will adjust to this change automatically. Some, however, will need reprogramming. If unsure, people should contact their service provider.

Until July 16, 2022, callers can reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.