RICHMOND, Va. - Virginia's new 276 area code becomes official March 16.
On that date, callers must dial 276 to reach phone numbers in far southwest Virginia. The 540 area code will no longer work in those parts of the state.
The 276 code, which was carved out of the existing 540 area, serves the counties of Bland, Buchanan, Carroll, Dickenson, Grayson, Henry, Lee, Patrick, Russell, Scott, Smyth, Tazewell, Washington, Wise and Wythe.
Cities and towns included in this region include Bland, Bluefield, Bristol, Cumberland Gap, Galax, Grundy, Norton, Marion, Meadows of Dan and Martinsville.
The 540 area code will continue to serve the Shenandoah Valley and the cities of Roanoke, Staunton, Harrisonburg, Winchester and Fredericksburg.
Customers have actually been able to use the 276 area code during a grace period that began Sept. 1, 2001. During the transition to the new area code, calls could also be completed using the 540 code. However, beginning March 16, callers who dial the 540 area code for numbers in the 276 area will hear a recording advising them to dial the new code.
The new code has no effect on rates or on local calling areas. The places that can be dialed locally now can be dialed locally after the introduction of the 276 area code. However, local calls between the two area codes will require the correct area code and seven-digit number.
A dwindling supply of telephone exchange codes in the 540 area code prompted the change. There are 756 useable exchange codes (first three digits of a phone number) in an area code. A single exchange contains as many as 10,000 telephone numbers.
The demand for phone numbers is sparked in large measure by the growing number of telecommunications companies competing for local phone service. These companies require a large supply of numbers to serve their customers. In addition, thousands of customers are now linked to the outside world through fax machines, pagers, cellular phones, modems and other communications devices that need phone numbers.
Area codes have traditionally had either a "0" or a "1" as a second digit. However, all of those possible area codes are now used. Some businesses and other institutions may have to make modifications to their in-house switching system to accommodate dialing area codes that have another number as a second digit. Businesses that have a PBX (private branch exchange) built prior to 1992 should call their supplier to see if an upgrade is necessary.
Virginia's new 434 area code, serving parts of central and southside Virginia, was introduced earlier this year. The 571 area code, an overlay area code, came on the scene two years ago to serve Northern Virginia along with the existing 703 area code. The 757 area code in southeastern Virginia was introduced in July 1996. The 540 area code began serving customers in the western part of the state in July 1995. The 804 area code, which was carved out of the 703 area code, dates to 1973.
For more information on recent area code changes in Virginia, visit www.vzmultimedia.com/customersupport/areacodes/virginia/virginia.html or www.nanpa.com.
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