Starting in the spring of 2015, anyone applying for new phone service in DeKalb County or elsewhere in north central middle Tennessee can expect to get a new area code once the availability of (615) area code numbers is exhausted. Ten digit local dialing will also be required to complete a call.
The Tennessee Regulatory Authority recently announced plans to implement the new (629) area code. Known as an 'Area Code Overlay,' this change ensures availability of an ongoing supply of telephone numbers. "The state TRA some time ago put out a comments page on their website and asked the people who lived in the 615 area code area if they would like to have another area code split, which is what happened when the 615 and 931 area codes came about, or if they would like to have an overlay. The overwhelming response was an overlay which means that a 629 area code will come into effect in March. They will have to start issuing new numbers under the 629 and 615 area codes," said Craig Gates, Chief Executive Officer of DTC Communications in an interview with WJLE Wednesday.
The reason for the change is because the existing supply of 615 area code numbers is running out. "Across America, ever since cell phones came into being and in 1996 with the advent of the Competitive Local Exchange Carriers (CLEC) and later IP or Voice Over Internet Carriers, everybody has been gobbling up the phone number pool that exists and they are running out of numbers with the plan they have," said Gates.
According to rules of the Federal Communications Commission, when two area codes serve the same region, callers are required to change the way they dial local calls. While customers do not have to change their existing area code or phone number, they will be required to ten-digit dial all local calls (area code and seven-digit telephone number. " Even though you're going to dial ten digits instead of seven, it's still a local call. But you will have to dial ten digits. Eleven digits will be used for long distance calling ," said Gates.
In addition to landlines, ten digit dialing will also apply to cell phones, fax machines, and other communication systems . "That'll be for cell phones and land lines, your home phone number but some other things people need to think about are automatic dialers, fax machines, alarm systems, security systems, Internet dial up numbers (if you still have dial up Internet), and speed dialers. Phone contact lists will need to be updated. Call forwarding settings will have to be changed. All of those things will have to be done so that people can complete those calls on a mandatory basis in February," said Gates.
Beginning July 26 residents and businesses in the 615 area code can start dialing ten digits - area code + telephone number - when making local calls. Beginning February 28, 2015, everyone in the 615 area code will be required to dial ten digits (area code + telephone number) and starting March 28, 2015, new telephone lines or services may be issued numbers using the 629 area code, if 615 numbers are no longer available.
According to Gates, DTC still has an ample supply of 615 area code numbers. "DTC has plenty of 615 numbers left and we will continue to give out 615 numbers for the foreseeable future but at some point those could become exhausted. Another thing that's been done for the last few years is they can actually claim numbers from us. They can take back numbers. That could happen and if so we would end up with the 629 area code a little quicker than we would otherwise," he said.
DTC customers don't have to wait until July 26 to begin ten digit dialing, according to Gates. " DTC has been allowing permissive dialing for the last few months. Currently you can dial either the seven or ten digits. Once it becomes mandatory, you will have to dial the area code and the seven digits. It becomes mandatory on February 28," he said.
Gates urges DTC customers to become familiar now with the practice of ten digit dialing. "It will be a change. It's going to take some education, especially once that mandatory time hits because people are not going to be ready for it. A lot of people are going to continue to dial seven digits and not think about it. When that day comes, I imagine we're going to start getting some calls from those people who haven't heard or forgotten about it," Gates concluded.