Idaho

Starting Saturday, Idahoans will have to dial area code for local calls

A push-button landline phone that looks like an old-fashioned rotary model. Local calls on landline phones still won’t cost anything, and phone rates will not be affected, when 10-digit dialing becomes mandatory in Idaho next August.
A push-button landline phone that looks like an old-fashioned rotary model. Local calls on landline phones still won’t cost anything, and phone rates will not be affected, when 10-digit dialing becomes mandatory in Idaho next August. AP

Starting Saturday, anyone in Idaho calling an in-state number, including local calls, will have to dial all 10 digits, including area code.

That’s in preparation for the September rollout of Idaho’s second area code, 986. Ten-digit dialing is mandatory along with the addition of the new area code.

“The idea was to ease the transition of the introduction of the new area code next month, to get people in the habit of dialing 10 digits,” said Matt Evans, a spokesman for the Idaho Public Utilities Commission.

One of the few exceptions: 911. You don’t need an area code to call emergency dispatch, but if you’re dialing the full number for your local police dispatch, the area code is required.

Idaho was one of only 12 states that still had a single area code when state officials announced in 2015 that a second area code would be needed.

That need arose largely due to the proliferation in electronic equipment that has been assigned a phone number, including fax machines, security systems and voice mail, Evans said.

Idaho is running out of its roughly 8 million phone numbers that use 208.

The term “area code” will become a misnomer in Idaho after the addition of 986. Rather than assign the new area code to a specific part of the state, it will be used for new numbers anywhere in Idaho.

But don’t assume that if you get a new phone number you’ll automatically get a 986, Evans said. The state’s 60-plus phone service providers — everything from Verizon to local mom-and-pop phone companies — have been allotted numbers that use 208, and a good supply of those numbers are still available in rural areas.

“In and around Boise, the supply of the 208 number is exhausted,” Evans said. “Ask your provider or whoever your carrier is. … It doesn’t hurt to ask. Whether they can accommodate you is a different story.”

Here are some other things you need to know:

▪  The change will not impact long-distance calls. On a land line, you should continue to dial 1, then the area code and the number.

▪  In addition to 911, you can still call three-digit numbers such as 211 (Idaho CareLine), 511 (Idaho’s traveler information) and 811 (Digline).

▪  Check with your service provider to be sure that automatic dialing equipment, applications and software are programmed with 10-digit numbers, not just local numbers, and that they recognize the 986 area code. The Public Utilities Commission recommends that you check fax machines, life-safety systems, internet dial-up numbers, alarm and security systems, gates, ankle monitors, speed dialers, mobile phone contact lists, call-forwarding settings and voicemail services.

▪  Business communications, including signs, stationery, cards and advertising, need to be updated to include area codes.

Katy Moeller: 208-377-6413, @KatyMoeller

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