Tuesday, September 27, 2011

New Area Codes

Starting next year, the Raleigh area (a.k.a. the Triangle) will join many other metropolitan areas in that it will be served by two overlaid area codes. The existing 919 area code will remain intact, and will be overlaid by a new area code, 984. We're big time now! You know you've made it as a metropolitan area when you need two area codes.

Or so I thought, until I started looking around. When an area code runs out of phone numbers, you can do one of two things. Option #1 is to split the area code into two, forcing an area code change on half of your constituents, but keeping "one region, one area code" and seven-digit dialing. Option #2 is to overlay a second area code on the entire area, which keeps all existing numbers the same, but eliminates seven-digit dialing. Option #1 (splits) was favored for quite some time, but option #2 (overlays) seems to be the most popular form of area code expansion these days. For example, when West Virginia needed a new area code (the state's second) a few years ago, rather than split the existing 304, they decided to overlay the entire state with their new area code. Manitoba decided to do the same thing, and their second area code - 431, to be implemented next year - will be a province-wide overlay of the existing 204. I guess having two area codes no longer means you're in a big city, because even West Virginia and Manitoba are using overlays. (HOV lanes are still an indicator of big city status, however.)

Why the change from splits to overlays? Because ten digit dialing isn't really a big deal anymore, not with cell phones. Most phone calls do not involve me typing numbers into my phone, and when I do dial numbers, I've been in the habit of dialing 10 digits for years now anyway. Seven-digit dialing is a thing of the past, folks...but that has already been the case with the younger generation, I think. Still, though, I would prefer that new area codes come from a split rather than an overlay. The primary reason is because I like area codes as regional identifiers. One region, one area code. Given that about half of Manitoba's population lives in Winnipeg, why not give Winnipeg one area code and the rest of the province the other area code?

Area codes are useful in that they allow me to determine where a phone call is coming from if I don't recognize the number. They also help give me some information about somebody. Let's say I have a friend, and his/her cell phone number starts has a non-local area code. Well, that lets me know where this person used to live! I think that's neat. It's quite common for people to have non-local cell phone numbers these days, since people tend to hang onto their cell phone numbers even after they relocate. In fact, my cell phone number is still area code 904 (Jacksonville), and Amber's cell phone number is still area code 814 (State College). Having a 904 cell phone number is sort of a badge of pride for me, which is one reason why I've never switched to a 919 number. Jacksonville pride, baby! (The main reason I've never changed it is so that I wouldn't have to tell everyone that my phone number changed.)

Speaking of which...I suppose the whole "pride" thing is an argument for overlays. People carry some sort of pride with their home area code. (For example: "I'm from The 919, yo!") So what if we split the area code up? Then all those people who were "919 representing" are now "984 representing", and that doesn't sound as hip, I guess. At least this way, everyone who was in "The 919" to begin with, still is. But overlaying a single metropolitan area is one thing; those are hard to split into two area codes. I don't like the idea of overlaying an entire state with a second area code. And I'm not from West Virginia, but I don't think you would lose much "pride" by putting Wheeling and Beckley in separate area codes. I demand as much specificity as possible in my area codes!

Other fun facts about area code splits and overlays:
- California has 30 area codes. If I counted correctly, 20 of the 30 are non-overlaid: one region, one area code.
- The following states still only have one area code covering the entire state: Alaska (sort of - see below), Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, Wyoming. (District of Columbia, too.)
- West Virginia is the only state with a two-area-code overlay covering the entire state. Every other state with two area codes employs a split. (Saskatchewan also has a two-area-code, province-wide overlay, and Manitoba will starting next year.)
- Alaska is entirely served by area code 907...except for the Southeast Alaska town of Hyder, which shares British Columbia's area code 250.
- In Canada, the three northern territories (Yukon, NW Territories, Nunavut) share a single area code: 867, which not coincidentally, spells "TOP" on your phone.

Speaking of spelling out words with phone numbers...if I were to switch my phone number to a local number, the best time to do it would be immediately after the new area code is implemented, right? All of the fun 919 numbers are already taken, of course. But with 984 we're starting fresh, so in theory, I could get any phone number I want - say, 984-222-2222. Or, I could spell out any word I want, such as 984-CURLING, or maybe 984-BOOGERS. Wouldn't that be fun?


Maria Eswine said...

I hate it when companies only provide their phone number with the words in it. Because of my QWERTY keyboard, I don't have the letters on the buttons anymore like in the traditional manner, so it takes me forever to figure out the phone number.

amber said...

Ah ha! This is where my old fashioned cell leaves the smart phones in the dust.. dialing 919-BOOGERS? No problem!

Spartangoogle said...

Historical note: When North Florida split the 904 area code there was much fighting between the "big businesses" of Jacksonville and the state government in Tallahassee (and I suppose FSU) as to who should have to change. Surprisingly the legislature did not win.