Extra phone dialing begins Monday|[3/8/05]

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 8, 2005

Putting all jargon aside, it’s just an extra three numbers to dial.

Beginning Monday, people in the 601 area code will need to dial 10 digits, adding the area code as a prefix, instead of the old seven, to complete a local call.

A transition period began July 19, 2004, in which customers could either dial 7- or 10-digit numbers. But after Monday, 7-digit numbers will no longer be enough to complete calls.

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“When that person dials a call in the old manner, they’ll be interrupted with a message. Eventually, everyone will adapt,” said Carolyn Manning, BellSouth’s regional manager for west central and north Mississippi.

“I think it’ll take people a few minutes and then it will be old hat,” Manning said.

The additional dialing is required because central Mississippi, which uses the 601 area code, is getting an additional area code: 769.

Called an “overlay” area code, the new code will be gradually phased in as 601 numbers run out. Numbers using the 769 area code will not be issued until no more 601 numbers remain.

The new dialing scheme affects all phone customers, including cellular, fax machines, modems and pager users. The biggest inconvenience for most people will be reprogramming speed-dial numbers.

The new area code was approved by the Mississippi Public Service Commission after a recommendation from the North American Numbering Plan Administration, a third-party administrator for assigning area codes.

The administration cited a growing population combined with an increased use of cellular phones and fax machines as the reason for the new area code.

The overlay plan is a better option than splitting the current 601 area and assigning another area code, said Central District Public Service Commissioner Nielsen Cochran.

“Carving out and establishing a new area code is just putting a Band-Aid on (the problem)” Cochran said. “The overlay gives you a longer period of time before you have to make changes in the system.”

Cochran said the overlay plan would also save business the expense of reprogramming phones because everyone who now has a 601 area code will keep it.

The 769 area code will be the fourth in Mississippi. North Mississippi is served by the 662 area code and south Mississippi uses the 228 area code.

South and north Mississippi will probably have overlays added within three years, Cochran said.