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Hey 865! Area-codeless local calls end Sunday

You'll have to dial a few extra digits to make a phone call.

Starting on October 24, 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.

This may mean you will need to add the area code to numbers already programmed into your cell phones.

Even after the change, the calls within your area code will still be local so you won't be charged for calling long distance on a land line phone.

Ryan Rodabaugh is the owner of Farragut Fixit. He fixes phones nearly every day. 

"I think it's a step in the right direction for organization for people and better communications, so I think it's a good thing," he said.

The nationwide change centers on the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. That three-digit number is 988. The Federal Communications Commission said it wants that number to be treated like 911 and stand alone, but because several existing numbers in the 865 area code begin with "988" -- it could be mistakenly dialed by someone trying to enter a seven digit number. To prevent that, it's requiring area codes to be entered in places where these "988" phone numbers exist.  

"That's a very, like, immediate concern situation, so they have to figure out how quick can we get these people organized," Rodabaugh said.

This way people in crisis will only have to dial three numbers. It’s kind of like dialing 911 in an emergency. 

For regular calls, now you'll have to dial the full 10 digits for any phone number -- including ones made in your own area code. For much of East Tennessee, that means taking an extra step to punch in (865) every time you make a local call.

Employees at Farragut Fixit said they’re prepared for the switch. It’s something they’ve been practicing for years already. 

"We get all sorts of calls from like Florida, California, from all over the U.S. but they're all like here but when people move they don't change their area codes," Rodabaugh said.

They’re prepared to help others with the transition as well. 

"There's all sorts of crazy things that come in here I mean people come in here saying their phone won't turn on one time we just had to plug it in. I'm not kidding.”

He expects the 10 digit dialing will trigger more questions. Especially for people who only have the seven digit number saved in their contact list. 

"We might have some people having questions about this topic in regard to that," Rodabaugh said. "There's a lot of things that can go wrong with your phone so we hope that we can at least make sure that we're organizing the customers right."

Why the change?

The reason for the 10-digit dialing 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 uses 988 prefixes in telephone numbers is mandated by the FCC to adopt 10-digit dialing.

865 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.

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.

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?

  • 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.