What is 10-Digit Dialing and Will Evansville Really Have to do This?

On August 6, 2014, Verizon Wireless sent out a message to their customers in area code 812 regarding a new area code. Here’s the message I received:

10 digit dialing in Evasnvile

This created a lot of confusion. I even saw a few Facebook posts where folks were wondering if this was a joke.  A couple of days later, Verizon Wireless sent out a followup message:

10 digit dialing cancelled in EvasnvileYou may have received a similar message and wondered what this is all about. Many of us who have lived in Southern Indiana for all of our lives (or at least for the last 15 years) might have been caught by surprise by this message, and may find it confusing. Since I have a telecom background, the history of telephone number assignment and the routing of telephone calls around the country really is quite interesting to me, but I’m not sure that many readers would agree. The explanation I’ll share is greatly abbreviated, but does cover the most important issues.

Will the 812 area code be forced to use 10 digit dialing?

The bottom line is this:  we are running out of telephone numbers in area code 812. If no action is taken, then one day someone will move into the area, call up the phone company, only to be told that no more numbers are available. To avoid this happening, another area code has been assigned to the same area (called an Area Code Overlay)…area code 930. The original plan, announced by the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) in August of 2012, was to begin allocating telephone numbers with the 930 area code in October of 2014.  The local telephone companies and the wireless carriers would be using numbers that are in both area codes. And this is why 10-digit dialing was needed.

Why was 10 digit dialing cancelled for the 812 area code?

So why the cancellation message? Following the initial announcement, the IURC received lots of complaints from business and government offices stating that their phone systems weren’t ready for this. Older phone systems and alarm systems may need to be modified or replaced to support mandatory 10-digit dialing. Imagine a sophisticated alarm system that has been programmed to dial a 7 digit number in the event of a breach. Calls made by the alarm system could fail.

What happens now for dialing in the 812 area code?

It is possible that the date for mandatory 10-digit dialing just gets pushed back to allow organizations more time to ensure that their systems can support 10-digit dialing. It is also possible that the IURC decides to do an Area Code Split rather than an Area Code Overlay. This has happened multiple times in the state of Indiana and in Kentucky (and around the entire country), but thus far hasn’t impacted us in Southern Indiana. For example, prior to 1999, Western Kentucky (Henderson, Owensboro, Paducah, etc.) was in area code 502, which also covered Central Kentucky (in fact, at one time it covered the entire state). In 1999, everyone with a phone number in Western Kentucky had their area code changed from 502 to 270. An Area Code Split means it is possible that Southern Indiana gets split in two – one of the areas would have all telephone numbers changed from area code 812 to 930. The benefit to this approach is that phone systems probably don’t have to be modified because 7-digit dialing would still work. The downside, however, is significant. If your telephone number had its area code changed, you’ll have to notify lots of others that your phone number has changed! And many businesses would have to update printed materials to reflect the new area code (printing companies would be one of the beneficiaries of an area code split)! I am hoping that we continue down the current path of an Area Code Overlay.

Regardless of how the IURC chooses to handle this, I have two suggestions to make.

  1. First, if you haven’t already started thinking in terms of 10-digit dialing, start now. Go through your electronic contacts list (on your phone or in your email contacts) and make sure that all phone numbers have the area code. There is a good chance you’ve entered some numbers as just 7-digit numbers since they are in the same area code as your number.
  2. Second, if your phone system is 5 years old or older – or if you have a system that has an alarm line, start the process now to make sure that nothing will break if either an Area Code Overlay or an Area Code Split happens. If you aren’t certain how to do this or what you should look for, we can help.

By the way, if an Area Code Split happens, it is almost certain that the area in Indiana north of Louisville will keep area code 812 and the rest of the current 812 area will change to the new area code. As much as I don’t like it, there are some good reasons for this. In other words, if an Area Code Split happens, those of us in Southwestern Indiana (including Evansville) will most certainly be changing our phone numbers to area code 930.

If you take steps now, you won’t have to worry as much about this when the IURC announces the plan for rolling out numbers in area code 930.  And if anyone asks you, tell them you would greatly prefer an Area Code Overlay!