Phone numbers get extra digits as customers increase

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 21, 2004

[7/20/04]Get that dialing finger in shape.

Since Monday, all phone customers in the 601 calling zone have been able to dial 10 digits including the area code to call next door or anywhere in the 601 zone.

For the next eight months, dialing the extra three numbers is an option. Beginning March 14, it will be required.

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Then BellSouth will begin assigning a second area code, 769, to phone customers in the central part of Mississippi, now covered by 601.

The assignment of the 769 area code will begin after all 601 numbers are used up, which is projected to happen next year, BellSouth regional manager Carolyn Manning said.

The transition period that was begun Monday is to allow telephone customers to “prepare for this change by reprogramming numbers stored in alarms, cell phones, fax machines and other technological devices,” Manning said.

More people using more and more-varied telecommunications technology have increased the demand for telephone numbers in recent years. Such new technology includes fax machines, pagers, cellular service and personal-computer modems.

The addition is called an “overlay” area code. The plan has been made by the North American Numbering Plan Administration and affects all companies that assign telephone numbers in the zone, not just BellSouth, Manning said.

“An overlay area code is just what it sounds like it overlays, or sits on top of, an existing area code,” Manning said. “Customers who currently have 601-area-code telephone numbers will not have to change their number to accommodate the 769 area code.”

BellSouth will assign new lines randomly within the 601 calling zone without regard to the purposes for which the lines are to be used, Manning said.

“There is no discrimination in assignment,” she said.

Numbers with the 769 area code will be assigned in the same way, with 769 numbers being assigned only when no 601 number is available, she said.

As 601 numbers are relinquished, they will be replaced in the pool of numbers available for assignment after a 90-day waiting period, she added.

“BellSouth is taking steps to notify its customers of the pending change, using bill inserts and customer notifications,” Manning said.

The change to optional 10-digit dialing applies only to numbers for which dialing an area code is not required.

The 601 calling zone includes Warren County and most of South Mississippi, excluding the Gulf Coast. Sharkey and Issaquena counties are in the 662 calling zone, which covers most of North Mississippi.

The 769 prefix will be the fourth for a Mississippi calling zone. South and North Mississippi will probably have overlay codes within three years, Central District Public Service Commissioner Nielsen Cochran has said.