BOSTON - Verizon Communications, the national telecommunications company formed through the merger of Bell Atlantic and GTE, is kicking off a campaign to inform Eastern Massachusetts residents and businesses about the introduction of four new area codes next year and a new way to make local phone calls.
The new area codes, called "overlays," will have the same geographic boundaries as the current 617, 508, 781 and 978 area codes. Overlay area codes eliminate the need to split the existing codes into ever-smaller areas and also make it possible for customers to keep their existing telephone numbers.
While customer telephone numbers in the existing area codes will not change, beginning Sept. 15, all callers in Eastern Massachusetts should start dialing 10 digits -- the area code and seven-digit number - for all local calls, and "1" plus 10 digits for all toll calls. For simplicity's sake, customers may complete all calls -- local, toll and long distance - by dialing "1" plus 10 digits. Customers who want a "toll indicator" when calling beyond their local calling area should dial using 10 digits only. If the call is not completed customers will know that it is a toll call and may redial using "1" plus 10 digits.
This change affects Eastern Massachusetts customers only. Customers in the Western Massachusetts 413 area code should continue to dial all their calls as they do today.
Eastern Massachusetts customers will have about six months to prepare for the dialing change. "Customers in the Eastern Massachusetts area codes may begin dialing differently on Sept. 15, 2000," said Rick Colon, Verizon area code customer education manager in Massachusetts. "On April 2, 2001, mandatory 10-digit dialing for all local calls in Eastern Massachusetts will begin. Callers who do not dial using 10 digits or "1" plus 10 digits will hear a message instructing them to dial both the area code and telephone number," said Colon. "We encourage customers to begin dialing differently starting Sept. 15 to get used to the change as soon as possible."
The new area codes will overlay existing area codes as follows:
- 857 will overlay 617
- 774 will overlay 508
- 339 will overlay 781
- 351 will overlay 978
Beginning May 2, 2001, local telephone companies may assign numbers in the new 857, 774, 339 and 351 area codes to customers who request new phone service or additional lines.
The demand for new telephone numbers is exploding as Massachusetts residents and businesses increasingly have a choice of which company provides their local phone service, and these competing companies require phone numbers for their customers.
This heavy demand for phone numbers is driving the need for new area codes in Massachusetts and across the country. The 781 area code was carved out of the 617 code two years ago. At the same time, the 978 area code was carved out of the 508 code. With the addition of the four new overlay codes, Massachusetts will have nine area codes.
The additional area code and move to 10-digit and "1"plus 10-digit dialing in Eastern Massachusetts will not affect current telephone numbers, dialing to reach 911 service, the price of telephone service or local calling areas. A local call today will still be a local call when 10-digit dialing and the new area codes are in effect. Beginning with the release of new directories in September, customers can get more information on their local calling areas by checking the customer guide section in the front of their Verizon White Pages directories.
Consumers and businesses must reprogram any telephone system or optional service such as Call Forwarding that dials other phone numbers in Eastern Massachusetts by April 2, 2001. (NOTE TO EDITORS: A list of some equipment and services that may require reprogramming follows this release.)
Verizon has kicked off an extensive public education campaign to inform its customers about the dialing change and new area code. This campaign will include letters to businesses, inserts in residential customers' phone bills, advertising, outreach to senior citizens and other community members and other special activities.
"We want customers to adapt to these changes as comfortably as possible, and we will do all we can to help minimize any confusion and concerns," said Colon.
More information on the area codes and dialing changes is available Monday - Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Verizon's toll-free Area Code Information Line -- 877 554-3685. Customers also may visit the company's special area code pages on the World Wide Web (http://www.bellatlantic.com/areacode/pages/ma.htm).
Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ), formed by the merger of Bell Atlantic and GTE, is one of the world's leading providers of communications services. Verizon companies are the largest providers of wireline and wireless communications in the United States, with more than 100 million access line equivalents and 25.6 million wireless customers. A Fortune 10 company with more than 260,000 employees and approximately $60 billion in 1999 revenues, Verizon's global presence extends to 40 countries in the Americas, Europe, Asia and the Pacific. For more information on Verizon, visit www.verizon.com.
Business and residential customers with phone numbers in the 617 / 508 / 781 / 978 area codes who have telephone equipment or a communications service that currently dials seven-digit phone numbers in Eastern Massachusetts should reprogram that equipment or service as soon as possible to dial using ten digits or "1" plus ten digits for every seven-digit number they dial today. This reprogramming must be completed by April 2, 2001.
Some examples of equipment or Verizon services that may need to be reprogrammed include:
- Computers used for Internet access
- Speed dialing lists
- Automatic dialers
- Cellular and mobile phones
- Security systems (ask your security company)
- PBX business phone systems (ask your PBX supplier)
- Fax machines
- Call Block
- Home Voice Mail or Answer Call/Voice Mail features
- Call Forwarding
In addition, be sure to update phone lists, databases, Web pages, billing records and address books to include area codes. And be sure to include the area code when exchanging telephone numbers.
For more information on Massachusetts area codes or dialing, call Verizon's toll-free Area Code Information Line on 877 554-3685. Customers also may visit the company's area code pages on the World Wide Web (http://www.verizon.com/areacode/pages/ma.htm).