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How to Remember Idaho's New Area Code: PUC Chairman Has a Terrible Joke for You


  • Boise Weekly
Idaho lawmakers were briefed Tuesday morning on the Gem State's new era of 10-digit dialing—but at least one legislator wasn't happy about the pending change, which will add a second area code (986) to the state.

"This is a mess that we're about to start," said House State Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Tom Loertschere (R-Iona). "I've had a private conversation with [Public Utilities Commission Chairman] Paul Kjellander about this, so I can legitimately say that."

Kjellander stood before the committee Tuesday to say Idaho was quickly running out of new numbers assigned to the current 208 area code.

"In my own home, we have six cellphones, a land line and an internet protocol line, which requires a separate number," said Kjellander. "Across the state, phone lines are assigned to vending machines, alarm systems, baby monitors and countless machines, which communicate with other machines via the phone."

Idaho has already begun what the PUC calls a "permissive" 10-digit dialing period, meaning customers can dial 1-208-XXX-XXXX, even for local numbers.

"Sometime in August, that will be required; and, sometime after that, they'll begin issuing new numbers with the 986 area code," said Kjellander.

The new 986 numbers will be "overlaid" with existing 208 numbers, meaning instead of a territorial divide, the entire state will share the two area codes going forward.

"How do I get my kids to remember the new area code?  I tell them a terrible joke, so please excuse me," said Kjellander. "I ask them, 'Why is the number 7 afraid of Idaho's new area code? Because 9-8-6 [nine ate six]. With that, I think I should stop talking."