Three little digits can mean big headaches for phone dialers in Northeastern and Central Pennsylvania. Starting Saturday, everyone within the 570 area code will need to dial the area code plus the seven-digit phone number they’re trying to call, even if they’re calling their neighbor.
If only the seven-digit telephone number is dialed, customers will reach a recorded announcement stating they must hang up and redial the number using the area code plus the seven-digit number. This recording will be available permanently.
The change has been a long time coming and is actually taking effect later than originally planned. The original intent was to roll out a new area code in the summer of 2011, but the implementation was held off for two years.
Q: Why is this being done now?
A: The state Public Utility Commission announced the mandatory changes this March, the culmination of a nearly 3-year-old plan that was approved July 15, 2010, by the commission when it was informed that numbers in the 570 area code were running low. The 570 area code was established in 1998 after phone numbers were exhausted in the 717 area code that had served a large swath of Central and Northeastern Pennsylvania.
Since 2010, the commission was tasked with deciding whether to split the region in half with one continuing to use the 570 area code and one getting an all new area code or whether to implement an overlay where two area codes would be used within the existing 570 area code.
The commission opted for the overlay plan and chose 272 as the newest area code for the region.
Q: What areas are impacted?
A: All or parts of 29 counties stretching from the Harrisburg area in the south to the Poconos in the east, the New York state line in the north and Clinton County in the west. Lackawanna, Luzerne and Wyoming counties are among them.
Q: Why was an overlay plan chosen?
A: “After consideration of public input and several different area code relief options, the PUC determined that an overlay plan would affect the least amount of people. An overlay will not require existing customers to change their area code. There is no need to revise stationery, business cards and advertising unless they contain only seven-digit phone numbers,” said Denise McCracken, a PUC spokeswoman.
Q: What are overlay plans?
A: Overlays have become more widely used over the past decade and already exist elsewhere in the state.
In the Philadelphia area, 484 has been assigned within the 610 area code since 1999, and 267 has been distributed within the 215 area code since 1997. In Western Pennsylvania, the 878 area code soon will be issued in regions now served by the 412 and 724 area codes. For the past six months the PUC has been encouraging residents to get in the habit of using 10 digits to dial.
“Customers have had six months to get into the habit of dialing 10 digits … so disruptions after Sept. 21 should be minimal,” said Carl E. Erhart, Verizon’s area vice president.
Q: Will your phone number change?
A: Your telephone number, including current area code, will not change.
Q: Will you need to dial the area code even if calling a number still in the 570 area code?
A: Yes, you will need to dial area code plus telephone number for all calls, local or long distance.
Q: Does this change your phone bill costs?
A: No, what is now a local call will remain that way for billing purposes.
Q: Will this impact the special three-digit numbers such as 911?
A: No, you can still dial just three digits to reach 211, 311, 411, 511, 611, 711, 811 and 911.
Q: What should you do before Saturday?
A: You will need to reprogram your stored numbers on land lines, fax machines, computer modems, alarm and security systems and cellphones to add the area code for calls to be able to be made.