Dialing habits are hard to break
Tahoe residents face a major shake-up in their telephone habits come Saturday.
The 530 area code will replace 916 on the California side of Lake Tahoe and calls that cross the state line should be dialed with 11-digits: 1 + Area Code + Seven-Digit number.
While the change officially goes into effect on Saturday, callers have six months to change their habits.
Until May 16, calls will connect with either the 916 or 530 area code and either seven-digit or 11-digit dialing. The period allows individuals and businesses time to update stationary and business supplies, notify friends and clients, and to reprogram fax machines and speed dialers.
The changes do not impact charges. Local calls will remain local calls, seven digits or 11.
Besides changing their own habits, lodging managers need to inform their customers. Harrah’s Lake Tahoe might be a driveway away from Embassy Suites Resort, but a phone call is four additional numbers to press when dialing between California and Nevada.
Both the area code change, which will replace the 916 area code with 530 in all but the Sacramento region, and the change to 11-digit dialing has been precipitated by the proliferation of faxes, modems, cellular phones and pagers that all require new phone numbers.
Until Saturday, the South Shore had been one of only a few communities to enjoy a protected dialing status that allowed seven-digit dialing across area codes.
“New competitors coming into this market would not be allowed to offer their customers this seven-digit dialing arrangement because of the phone number shortage,” said Joe Cocke, GTE regional staff administrator. “This would create dialing confusion for customers, with some customers dialing seven-digits and others 1 plus 10 digits. The need to maintain parity for all customers and telephone service providers is another reason we must discontinue this special arrangement.”
Eleven-digit dialing is ultimately expected to lead to replacing geographical area code splits with overlays. New codes are introduced with new phone numbers on top of existing area codes in the same geographical area. All phone calls will require the area code.
One benefit with an overlay system is that existing customers would avoid the business expense and trouble involved in changing area codes. The California Public Utilities Commission will not approve overlays until customers can keep the same phone number when they switch local phone companies. “Number portability” is expected to be introduced in 1998 or 1999.
If that’s not enough change to deal with, a new area code will come to Nevada on Dec. 12, 1998. Whether the Las Vegas area or the rest of Nevada will keep the 702 area code has not yet been decided nor has a new number been assigned.
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