Midtown Raleigh News

Ten-digit dialing begins March 31 in the Triangle

Triangle residents will soon begin mandatory 10-digit dialing for all local calls, the latest sign of how growth is changing our daily habits.

Seniors may have difficulty adapting to the switch, a state official said this week. A local nonprofit that serves the elderly will put out reminders to clients and partner agencies, its director said.

Beginning March 31, you must use 10-digit dialing for all local calls. If you do not use the new dialing procedure, your call will not be completed and a recording will tell you to hang up and dial again.

The change will accommodate a second area code coming to the Triangle. When it goes into use April 30, the 984 area code will be assigned only for new telephone numbers.

The area is adding an area code because phone companies are close to using up existing phone numbers. The change will affect the entire 919 region.

“There will likely be some confusion,” said Buck Moye, an engineer with the state’s public staff. “We’re always concerned with the elderly population. They’re not the early adopters for the most part. (But) information is getting out there. Hopefully people are noticing.”

The N.C. Utilities Commission last year told the phone companies to create an awareness campaign to prevent customer confusion. Phone companies sent notices to customers in October and again this year. The industry has created a template that all phone companies will share.

But it could take longer for elderly people to adjust, said Joan Pellettier, director of the Triangle J Area Agency on Aging. Many cellphone customers already use 10-digit dialing, but seniors remain loyal to their land lines, Pellettier said.

“It is going to be a challenge for older adults,” she said. “They’ll have to exert some effort to be sure a family member comes and re-programs their phones.”

Customers also must reprogram fax machines, auto-dial systems, security alarms and speed dialers so that they continue operating after March 31. Customers will be encouraged to update their websites, business cards and advertisements to include an area code.

In this state, 10-digit dialing has been an option for about a decade but not widely used.

Staff writer John Murawski contributed to this story.