Dialing More Numbers

Changes are coming.  That phrase will usually get a person’s attention.  Well, changes are coming to the region of our state with the 715 area code.  And the changes mean dialing all ten numbers when calling someone in that area.

For many of us, dialing all ten numbers of someone’s phone number in the 715 area code is standard because we are calling long distance.  But now for those in the 715 area code, all local calls will require dialing all ten numbers.

The reason for the change is the 715 area code is running out of new phone numbers. 

Most households don’t have just one phone number for the entire family.  Whether it’s a line for the children, a line for the internet, a cell phone for each family member, we are using more numbers.

Faced with a growing demand the Public Service Commission, the state agency that regulates utilities, had two choices: divide the region with the 715 area code and assign two different area codes or keep the 715 area code region the same and ‘overlay’ a new area code - 534.

After nine public hearings throughout the 715 area code region, the agency decided on the second option. Since both area codes will operate in the same area, is will now be necessary for people to dial all ten numbers, even to make a local call.

So, beginning July 17th those who live in the 715 area code will have to dial all ten numbers to call their neighbors. The new rule applies to land lines and cell phones. Local callers who do not enter all ten numbers will be asked to hang up and try the call again. 

This will take some getting used to - for many of us local calls seemingly only require remembering four numbers - even though we all know to dial seven. A fellow I spoke with the other day reminded me that all he had to know as a youngster was to pull the lever and ring the operator.

And seeing a 534 area code will seem strange when calling someone in communities where we are used to dialing 715.

The good news is that all customers in the 715 area code will keep their current number. And the neighbor you call with ten numbers will still be a local call and not cost you more. But by the middle of August, new phone numbers may begin with the 534 area code.

If you use a machine that automatically dials a local number, like a life safety system, a FAX machine, alarm or security system, speed dial, call forwarding or voice mail, you will need to re-program that machine to dial all ten numbers.

Businesses will need to place the entire phone number with area code on all promotional material - although most businesses already do this. Parents and family members should take the time to educate children and seniors about the change. A note by the phone might help in an emergency when the young one is trying to call grandma.

If you need emergency services, you will still dial 911.  Other services such as dialing 411 for information will remain same.

The world of telecommunications has come a long way from the early systems where an operator used patch cords to connect one party to another.  Change means people now can connect with someone from just about anywhere.  And just like it takes a while to get used to writing the New Year on your checks after January 1st, we will get used to dialing our neighbor’s ten-digit phone number after July 17th.