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10 Digit Local Dialing Starts This Month

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After a delay from earlier this year, the new 448 area code will arrive here in the Panhandle later this spring. And even if your phone number doesn’t change, the way you make calls will.

“Area Code 850 was introduced in 1997, when the 904 area code needed an area code relief due to substantial growth in demand for telephone numbers,” said Greg Fogleman, a public utilities supervisor with the Florida Public Service Commission with the Office of Industry Development and Market Analysis.

“Back in the day you had one (phone) number for your house. Now everybody has a cell phone so they have a number associated with that phone. You have other devices that use phone numbers. If you have a relatively new GM car and have On Star, well each of those vehicles has its own, unique phone number. I, for example, have a smart watch and it has its own cell phone number as well.”

Rather than split the 850 area code down the middle and make everyone on one side change to the new code, the decision was made to use what’s called an overlay, where everyone keeps the same phone number, but newly assigned numbers are given 448. This keeps costs down for businesses that would have to change stationery and advertising, signage, even paint on vehicles. The only change now is people have to get used to dialing the area code for all local calls.

The change was supposed to take effect in February, but it was delayed because of concerns by certain industries, mainly alarm companies.

“We reached out to the Alarm Association, and they were notified not once, not twice but three times that this was coming," said Fogleman. "Unfortunately, an area code overlay wouldn’t be a big deal in an area where there was already 10-digit dialing. They didn’t realize that this was going to be a change, and didn’t really promote this to the alarm companies. And they were beginning to scramble, especially in light of COVID, not being able to get out to residents and businesses to reprogram those fire alarms and those burglar alarms, and there was a concern that they weren’t going to make the deadline and then these devices would not work.”

The industry was given a 90-day extension which will end this month. Beginning May 22, dialing the area code before a local number will be mandatory. You will not have to dial 1 before the area code if that number is local. The rule of thumb is, if it was long distance before, it’s long distance now and that’s when you dial 1. The new numbers with the 448 area code will start to be assigned on June 22. NAPA, the North American Numbering Plan Administrator, estimates this new should have a life of over 30 years.