Mandatory 10-Digit Dialing Coming Soon

In an old advertising slogan for the Yellow Pages, telephone users were urged to “let your fingers do the walking.” In just a few months, they’ll have to walk a little farther than usual.

People across most of the U.S. will soon be required to include the area code when dialing any number, even if you’re calling your next-door neighbor. The Federal Communications Commission is mandating the change to 10-digit local dialing in order to support the nationwide rollout of a three-digit hotline for crisis communications.

The Transition from Seven- to Ten-Digit Dialing

Starting Oct. 24, all telecommunications carriers, interconnected Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) providers and one-way VoIP providers will be required to make the transition from seven-digit dialing. The change affects consumers and businesses in 82 area codes across 35 states and the U.S. territory of Guam. You can see the full list of states and area codes affected here.

To help users get in the habit, providers in these areas have actually been supporting 10-digit local dialing since late April. During this so-called “permissive dialing period,” users are being encouraged to include the area code in local calls, but calls dialed with just seven digits will still be completed. Once the October deadline arrives, those who dial just seven digits will get a recording saying their call cannot be completed as dialed.

Why 10-Digit Dialing Is Required

The change is necessary to support the nationwide use of a three-digit number — 988 — for the National Suicide Prevention and Mental Health Crisis Lifeline. The hotline number won’t become active until July 16, 2022. Until then, callers must continue to dial 1-800-273-TALK to reach the Lifeline.

Ten-digit dialing is necessary to ensure 988 calls get directed to the crisis hotline. Otherwise, if you were calling a seven-digit number with a 988 prefix, the phone switch would not know whether the call needed to go to the Lifeline or to the seven-digit number. With 10-digit dialing, the North American Numbering Plan Administrator is able prevent any confusion to the system.

Besides requiring a change in dialing habits, 10-digit dialing will require consumers and businesses to make adjustments to a variety of services, equipment and processes that are currently set up for seven-digit numbers. These could include:

  • Contact lists and speed dial functions
  • Voicemail and call forwarding settings
  • Wearable medical alert devices, such as bracelets, neck pendants and smartwatches (you may need to contact your provider for instructions).
  • Fire alarms and security systems (again, you may require guidance from providers)
  • Electronic key systems
  • Computer modems
  • Voice mail/messaging systems
  • ISDN equipment
  • PBX systems
  • Fax machines

You should also update websites, personal and business stationery, advertising materials, personal and business checks, contact information, personal or pet ID tags and other such items to ensure phone numbers are listed with the appropriate area code.

The change will not affect your current phone number, coverage area, services or how you make long-distance calls. Additionally, current three-digit dialing services such as 911 and 711 (an emergency relay service for the speech and hearing impaired) will not be impacted.

If you have questions or concerns about how this change will affect your business communications systems, give us a call. We’ll be happy to assist you with the transition.