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Finger fatigue? Get ready for 10-digit dialing in the 218 area code

Not all area codes have to switch to 10-digit dialing. In Minnesota, only the 218 prefix, which covers the northern half of the state, and the 952 prefix in Bloomington will have to go to 10-digit dialing.

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If you live in the northern half of Minnesota, including Detroit Lakes, Perham, Wadena, Moorhead and Park Rapids, get ready to start dialing 218 in front of every local call.

The 218 area code is switching to 10-digit dialing. So if you live in Perham and want to call the Focus newspaper office in Perham, you’ll have to dial 218-346-5900, just like it was a long distance call. You won’t just be able to dial 346-5900 anymore. If you do try to stick with the shorter seven-digit number, you’ll get a message saying your call cannot be connected.

The change is necessary to make room for a new three-digit (988) National Suicide Prevention and Mental Health Crisis Lifeline (and textline) that goes into effect July 16.

Some cell phone service providers have already made the switch to 10-digit dialing. Arvig Communications plans to make the switch on Jan. 17.

“The big change is going to be 10-digit dialing,” said Arvig Marketing Director Lisa Greene. “The reason we’re doing it now is so people can get used to it – so it’s not a cold change on that date. So people don’t get confused.”

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There was some flexibility, but some of the timing for the switch was also mandated by administrators with the North American Numbering Plan, charged by the Federal Communications Commission with making room on the telephone grid for the new national three-digit suicide and veterans hotline, Greene said.

“We decided to do it the first of the year, after Christmas,” she said. “That was the cleanest break we could make for most people.”

Not all area codes have to switch to 10-digit dialing. In Minnesota, only the 218 prefix, which covers the northern half of the state, and the 952 prefix in Bloomington will have to go to 10-digit dialing.

It varies by state. There are four area codes in Wisconsin that are affected, but none in North Dakota, for example.

In all, more than 80 area codes in the United States are affected by the new 988 crisis line. The 218 prefix in Minnesota, and those other area codes across the country, all have three-digit “central office code protection numbers” that conflict with the new crisis line.

In the administration of the North American Numbering Plan, central office code protection is a numbering policy for maintaining local seven-digit dialing in certain communities.

At any rate, the change to 10-digit dialing means more than just the inconvenience of dialing three extra digits for a local call.

It also means all services, automatic dialing equipment, or other types of equipment that are programmed to complete calls to 7-digit local numbers will need to be reprogrammed to complete calls to 10-digit numbers.

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Some examples are: life safety systems or medical monitoring devices, PBXs, internet dial-up numbers, fax machines, fire or burglar alarm and security systems or gates, speed dialers, mobile or other wireless phone contact lists, voicemail services, call forwarding settings, and other similar functions.

Arvig advises customers to check their website, personal and business stationery, advertising materials, personal and business checks, contact information, personal or pet ID tags, and similar items to make sure the area code is included.

On the plus side, Arvig said, many things will remain the same:

  • Your telephone number, including current area code, will not change.
  • The price of a call, coverage area, or other rates and services will not change due to the dialing change.
  • What is a local call now will remain a local call regardless of the number of digits dialed.
  • You will continue to dial 1+ area code + telephone number for all long distance calls.
  • You can still dial just three digits to reach 711 (relay services) and 911 (emergency services).
  • Any 211, 311, 411, 511, 611 or 811 services available in your community can still be reached by dialing their 3-digit codes.
  • The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can still be reached by dialing 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The new 988 line won’t go into effect until July 16.

Arvig wants businesses to be aware that their Business Phone Systems & Hosted PBX will be affected by the change.
All business phone systems, including HPBX (A Hosted Private Branch Exchange is a telephone switching system that's accessible over a network in the cloud) will be affected by this change as well. In addition to standard dialing, many calling features will be impacted, including:

  • Fax machines

  • Speed dialing

  • Contact lists and pre-programmed numbers

  • Voicemail services

  • Call forwarding settings

  • And other similar functions.

"Automated systems will be the 'gotcha,'" Greene said. "Anytime there's anything working in the background, it's like Y2K, it's something that's going to break."

Related Topics: DETROIT LAKESBECKER COUNTY
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