New Area Code means 10-digit local calls are coming to the Allegheny Highlands of Virginia
The State Corporation Commission (SCC) announced on June 17th that a new area code is coming to some areas in southwestern Virginia and the Allegheny Highlands.
The new 826 area code is meant to relieve the future exhaustion of phone numbers in Virginia’s 540 area code. It is estimated that the availability of phone numbers with the 540 area code will be exhausted in 2022, which is why the North American Numbering Plan Administrator (NANPA) has assigned the new area code.
The current 540 area code region encompasses much of western Virginia including the Roanoke area to the southwest and moving northward to include the Alleghany Highlands, Shenandoah Valley, Harrisonburg, Winchester and Fredericksburg.
An increase in telephone accounts, along with a larger number of mobile devices, led to the need for a second area code in a region that was created in 1995, after splitting off from the 703 area code.
The new two-area-code region is expected to have a lifespan of 30 years, according to a report last month from an SCC hearing examiner.
After holding hearings across the state, Mathias Roussy, with the SCC, recommended creation of a second superimposed area code. Other options had included splitting the region into two separate area codes and creating an overlay with 540 and one of two adjacent area codes, either 434 or 276.
Adding a new area code to the 540 region will be “more durable and/or less disruptive than other alternatives,” according to the commission.
The idea was first implemented in rapidly growing Northern Virginia, which added the 571 area code to the existing 703 one, which once covered half the state. When 826 becomes operational, Virginia will have nine area codes.
Had the region been split, some 540 callers would have been forced to switch to 826, and businesses would have had to make changes to signs, advertising and stationery. An SCC staff analysis also found that cities, counties and communities of interest could find themselves suddenly divided by area code.
In his report, Roussy noted that the primary disadvantage of having two area codes for a single region — having to dial the three-digit prefix for all calls — is much less of a concern today than it was in the past.
He said widespread wireless use, mobility and technology have already made dialing 10 digits a routine occurrence for many customers, meaning someone often only has to touch a screen or one button to make a 10-digit call.
The new 826 area code will superimpose the existing 540 area code region which will require customers in the region to dial 10-digits instead of 7 for all local calls. Nobody with a current 540 phone number will lose their 540 area code.
The SCC’s order will direct the telecommunications industry service providers in the area to move forward with a proposed 13-month implementation period. That includes a six-month period in which calls within the 540 area code can be completed using either seven or ten digits.
This period is used to ease the transition from seven-digit to ten-digit dialing so customers can be educated on the changes before the assignment of the new 826 area code.
Thanks to WFXR and The Roanoke Times for the information in this story.