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Here Comes 10-Digit Dialing

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Beginning Saturday, Nov. 5, Idaho will ease its way into 10-digit dialing. That's when the Public Utilities Commission launches what it calls a "permissive dialing period," which means the 208 area code can be added to all local dialing. By this time next year, it will be mandatory.

"The commission wanted to allow plenty of time for customers to prepare for the change and get used to 10-digit dialing," said PUC president Paul Kjellander.

Idaho is still one of a handful of states that has one area code—208 was assigned to the Gem State back in 1947. In 2001, a study indicated Idaho would soon run out of available numbers under the 208 umbrella.

That's why a second area code—986—will be issued to new telephone numbers beginning in fall 2017.

Regulators decided to mix the 208 and 986 area codes throughout Idaho instead of separating the state in two sectors, which would have required many Idahoans to change their area code. That, in turn, is prompting the 10-digit dialing.

The PUC says, over the next several months, Idaho customers should start changing the numbers they have pre-programmed into their phones to include the area code. When mandatory 10-digit dialing begins in August 2017, all calls—even local calls—without an area code will not be completed. Long-distance or toll calls on landlines will require a 1 before the area code, the same as long-distance calls now require.

Local calls on landline phones will still not cost anything, even though dialing the area code will be required. The move to a second area code will not impact rates.

Regulators were quick to add that callers will still dial just three digits when calling 911, 211, 411 or 811.

In rolling out the "permissive dialing period," a PUC spokesman said new technology "will eventually drive seven-digit dialing into obsolescence. Thus, any future dialing change and [future] planning will be eased by the implementation of 10-digit dialing now rather than later."

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