Area Code FAQs

The Relief Planning Process

What is the Planning Process to Establish a New Area Code?

The NANPA is responsible for assigning new NXX codes to telecommunications providers, monitoring the usage of NXX codes within an area code and for forecasting when an area code will most likely exhaust and require the implementation of an additional area code. The NANPA notifies the appropriate state regulatory commission, as well as the telecommunications industry, three years in advance of when an area code is expected to run out of new NXX codes. The planning process begins with NANPA and the telecommunications industry meeting to identify viable relief solutions. When developing and evaluating area code relief plans, the telecommunications industry is required to follow the regulations established by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and state regulatory commissions, as well as established industry guidelines. Once all of the reasonable alternatives have been identified, industry representatives strive to reach consensus on the most efficient relief plan for the area as a whole. The proposed plan, along with industry’s recommendation, is then submitted to the state regulatory commission for consideration.

Who Decides how to Implement a New Area Code?

The FCC has broad jurisdiction over telephone number issues, while the NANPA manages the administration and assignment of area codes in the United States. However, the FCC has given each state the authority to determine how to introduce new area codes. In Wisconsin, the PSC makes these decisions. The decision for the PSC is not whether to do area code relief (a new area code must be introduced once an area code approaches exhaust), but how to implement it.

What are the Methods used to Provide Area Code Relief?

A geographic split or an overlay are two methods of area code relief. Both methods have been successfully implemented in various parts of the country. The 920 area code was created in 1997 by splitting the then existing 414 area. The 262 area code was created in 1999 with a second split of the 414 area. In 2008, the Commission ordered overlays for the 715 area code and the 920 area code

Geographic Split

What is a Geographic Split?

With a geographic split, the geographic area served by an existing area code is split into two smaller areas. One of the sections will retain the existing area code while the other section will receive a new area code.

In addition:

  • Splits require an area code change for approximately one-half of the customers. Stationery, business cards and advertising would need to be revised by those customers receiving the new area code.

  • Geographic splits permit seven-digit local dialing within the area code.

How is a New Area Code Introduced After a Geographic Split?

A new area code is introduced in two steps. These steps are designed to guide consumers, familiarize them with the new area code and facilitate the correct use of the new area code.

  • Permissive Dialing: Permissive dialing allows callers to reach numbers in the new area code, whether they dialed the old area code or the new area code when placing calls. During this transitional period, customers should make an effort to begin using the new area code. The permissive dialing period begins with the introduction of the new area code and generally lasts six months. This provides a ‘get acquainted’ transition period for the new area code.

  • Mandatory Dialing When permissive dialing ends, an intercept recording period will begin. At this time, callers must use the appropriate area code. Incorrectly dialed calls will be referred to a recorded announcement informing the calling party that the new area code must be used in order to complete the call. After the recording period ends, callers who do not use the correct area code may reach a wrong number.
How will an Area Code Split Impact Home and Business Service?

Your calling areas and rates will not be impacted by an area code split. Calls that were considered local before the introduction of the new area code will remain local calls. Calls that were considered long distance before the new area code will remain long distance calls. However, if your area code changes, you should notify family, friends and business associates of this change. You may also need to modify items such as stationery, business cards, advertisements, alarm equipment, automatic dialers, bill statements, checks, computer lists, electronic banking information, emergency contact lists, identification bracelets, fax machines, health provider cards, pet ID tags and speed dial lists.

In Addition:
Some business customers, particularly those with a PBX or ISDN service, may need to upgrade or adjust their own telephone equipment to handle the new area code. Not all business equipment will require upgrading. If you have specific questions regarding your equipment, please contact your vendor for additional information or assistance.

Once the new area code has been determined, a test number will be established at least 30 days prior to the start of permissive dialing. This will allow business customers to verify that their equipment can complete calls to the new area code. The test number may be obtained from the associated planning letter for each area code on NANPA’s website: www.nanpa.com.

Compare the key differences between a geographic split and an overlay.

Overlays

What is an Overlay?

An area code overlay occurs when more than one area code serves the same geographic area. Relief is provided by implementing a new area code within the same geographic region as the area code that is exhausting. With an overlay, all current customers keep their area code and telephone number. However, telephone numbers with the new area code will eventually be assigned to new customers requesting service, as well as to existing customers ordering additional lines. Because both area codes reside within the same geographic area, all local calls must be dialed using the area code and the 7-digit telephone number (10 digits).

In addition:
Overlays avoid the need for public and political involvement concerning split boundaries and determining which side of the split line should retain the old area code.

An overlay will not require existing customers to change their area code. There is no need to revise stationery, business cards and advertising unless these printed materials contain only 7- digit phone numbers.

An overlay may require that customers adjust their automatic dialers or call forwarding arrangements to incorporate the area code on all calls.

Subsequent area code relief in the area that already incorparates an overlay, will most likely be another overlay. The geographic size of the area code is likely to be maintained.

Why Must an Overlay apply to all Services?

The FCC requires so that all telecommunications providers and technologies are treated alike. If the new area code only applied to some services (wireless services or new telecommunications providers), may lead to a competitive disadvantage. The telephone numbering system is intended to be competitively neutral and fair amongst all tehcnologies.

Subsequent area code relief in the area that already incorparates an overlay, will most likely be another overlay. The geographic size of the area code is likely to be maintained.

Why is it necessary to dial the area code and the 7-digit telephone number (10 digits) for local calls with an overlay?

This is also a FCC requirement. Since two area codes exist in the same geographic area, dailing all 10-digits is needed to properly route the calls to the correct destination. The 10-digit dialing requirement also avodis disadvantaging newer providers and promotes competitive neutrality in numbering.

How is a new area code introduced in an overlay?

The new area code is introduced in three steps designed to familiarize consumers with the new area code and the dialing changes that are required with an overlay

10-Digit Permissive Dialing:
During a permissive 10-digit dialing period, customers are encouraged to begin using the area code and the 7-digit number to place all local calls from the area code, although these calls will still complete if caller dials only the 7-digit number. During this time, life safety systems, alarms, PBX’s, fax machine calling lists, speed dialers, private entry access systems, auto-dialers and out-dialing lists on personal computers should be reprogrammed.

Mandatory 10-Digit Dialing:
Mandatory 10-digit dialing begins at the end of the formal permissive dialing period. Callers must use the area code and the 7-digit number for all local calls from the area code. Calls incorrectly dialed using only 7-digits will be referred to a recording which will inform the calling party that it is necessary to dial the area code and the 7-digit telephone number to complete the call.

Introduction of the New Area Code:
Numbers in the new overlay area code are introduced shortly after mandatory 10-digit dialing begins.

How will an overlay and 10-digit dialing impact my home and business telephone service?

Your calling areas and rates will not be impacted by an area code overlay.  Calls that were considered local before the introduction of the new area code will remain local calls.  Calls that were considered long distance before the new area code will remain long distance calls.  However, during the permissive dialing period both residential and business customers should begin making changes in anticipation of the scheduled mandatory dialing date:

  • Dial all local calls using the area code and the 7-digit number (10 digits).

  • If you have equipment or services that are pre-programmed to dial using only 7 digits, it's important to reprogram to 10-digit dialing for all local calls before the mandatory dialing date.  Also, be sure to update any call-forwarding, automatic-dial or speed-dial features that you may have.

  • Update printed materials such as stationery and checks to include your 10-digit telephone number.

  • Let family, friends and business associates know about your 10-digit number.

  • Teach children their 10-digit telephone number and how to call home.

  • Educate elderly relatives and friends about the need to dial 10 digits.

Additionally business customers should:

  • Update life safety systems, fax machines, private dial access entry and PBXs.  Contact your equipment vendor(s) if you need assistance.

  • Update other sophisticated services and equipment such as message detail recording equipment, alternate route or least-cost routing systems, toll restriction, mobile telephone service, cellular telephone service, alarm circuits and PC modems.

  • Include 10-digit telephone numbers on all printed materials such as stationery, checks, business cards, advertisements, promotional items, brochures and catalogs.

  • Inform employees and customers about the 10-digit dialing requirement in the area and the need to dial all local calls by using 10 digits.

  • Notify alarm service providers of the 10-digit dialing requirement so that records and equipment can be updated as needed.

  • Test telephone equipment to determine if it can dial and accept 10-digit dialed calls.  Questions regarding changes to your telephone equipment should be directed to your equipment vendor(s).  Any updates or changes to equipment must be made prior to the scheduled mandatory dialing date.

  • At least thirty days prior to the start of mandatory dialing a test number will be established.  This will allow business customers to verify that their equipment can complete calls to the new area code. The test number will only be active for a limited time period.

Compare the key differences between a geographic split and an overlay.

Miscellaneous

Will the cost of my calls change because of a new area code?

No, your calling areas and calling rates will not be impacted by an area code split or overlay. Calls that were considered local before the introduction of the new area code will remain local calls. Calls that were considered long distance before the new area code will remain long distance calls.

How does a new area code affect other telecommunications services?
  • 911 services will NOT be affected by the introduction of a new area code. Emergency calls will continue to be handled just as they are today.

  • 411 services will NOT be affected by the introduction of a new area code. Directory assistance calls will continue to be handled and billed just as they are today.

  • Access to other services such as 211 (information and referral services), 511 (travel information), 711 (TTY services) and 811 (Diggers Hotline), will NOT be affected by the introduction of a new area code. These calls will continue to be handled just as they are today.

  • All directories, as they are published, will be updated to reflect the new area code information. Directories in a geographic area affected by an overlay will publish both the area code and the 7-digit telephone number for each customer’s listing. Individual business customers are responsible for verifying the accuracy of their listings that appear in additional directories as well as the telephone information appearing in their paid advertising.
Why not assign a new area code to just fax or wireless services?
  • Perhaps the most common suggestion from the public facing an unwelcome area code change is to create an area code that is used only for wireless services, fax machines or other non-wireline, non-voice uses such as credit card verification. However, the FCC has banned this type of use for area codes.

  • The FCC specifically prohibits area code relief plans that exclude a particular type of telecommunications service from an area code or those relief plans that segregate services and/or technologies into different area codes. The FCCdecision sought to protect new telecommunications services from discrimination or disadvantage. For example, if a new area code were assigned only to cellular services, all local calls between a cellular customer and a wireline customer would require 10-digit dialing, while a wireline-to-wireline call could be made by dialing 7 digits. Such a dialing disparity would favor wireline customers at the expense of cellular customers. Also, through local number portability, wireline numbers can be ported to a wireless service provider and vice versa. This co-mingling of numbers and technologies prevents these services from being separated by area codes.
Why not add a digit or two to the telephone number instead of adding area codes?

The public has also suggested various means of expanding the current dialing plan. The most frequent suggestion is adding an 8th digit to the customer’s line number (i.e. 555-1212X). Wisconsin is an integral part of the North American Numbering Plan and cannot unilaterally make changes in the dialing protocol that other regions, indeed other countries, rely upon. National planners are studying means of expanding the current numbering system. However, such changes will have to be made on a multi-national basis and will almost certainly require years to implement in a coordinated manner.

What is the official source of area code information?

NeuStar, Inc., in its role as the North American Numbering Plan Administration, is the official source for area code information. Additional area code information can be found at: www.nanpa.com.

When will Wisconsin’s area codes require relief?

The North American Numbering Plan Administration (NANPA) is responsible for forecasting when an area code will most likely exhaust and require the implementation of an additional area code. The most recent projections were published in April 2014. View Wisconsin’s current Projected Exhaust Date.