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TYLER, Texas - Starting Saturday, Northeast Texas residents in the 903 area code will need to dial 10 digits (the area code plus the seven-digit number) to make local phone calls. Beginning Feb. 15, callers who dial only seven digits will hear a recording telling them they must redial to complete the call.
The new dialing pattern is needed as the result of a new 430 area code that will serve the same geographic area as the existing 903 area code. Creation of the new area code will not affect rates or local calling areas. Calls that are local today will continue to be local calls after 10-digit dialing goes into effect Feb. 15.
Dialing of long-distance calls within the 903 area code region will not change. Callers will continue to dial "1" plus the area code, plus the seven-digit number. Dialing to reach 9-1-1 emergency services will remain the same, as will dialing 4-1-1 to reach directory assistance.
The change means that Northeast Texans must reprogram computer modems using dial-up service for Internet access, fax machines, speed-dialing lists and call forwarding services and any other equipment that automatically dials telephone numbers. Security or alarm systems and business phone systems also must be programmed to handle the new dialing pattern.
During a transition period that began last July, callers in Northeast Texas have been able to complete calls within their area code by dialing either 10 digits or just the seven-digit number.
The new "overlay" area code eliminates the need to split the existing area code into a smaller area to create new phone numbers, and allows residents and businesses to keep their current numbers.
Northeast Texas residents with phone service today, including those in Athens, Bonham, Carthage, Greenville, Henderson, Kilgore, Longview, Palestine, Paris, Sherman, Sulphur Springs, Texarkana and Tyler, will keep their current telephone numbers.
Starting in late April, phone numbers with the new 430 area code will be assigned to customers who order phone service or an additional line.
In 2001, the Texas Public Utility Commission decided to introduce a new area code in the same geographic area now served by the 903 area code to meet the demand for new telephone numbers. Demand is growing rapidly as Northeast Texans and phone customers nationwide increasingly have a choice of which company provides their local phone service, and these competing companies require phone numbers for their customers. NeuStar Inc., which is the administrator for area codes, selected 430 as the new area code for Northeast Texas.
The new 10-digit dialing pattern for local calls was needed because the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requires that area codes must be dialed for all calls when a new "overlay" area code serves the same area as the existing area code. The regulations were established to promote local competition and fairness in the communications industry, allowing customers of any telecommunications company to dial calls in a similar manner.
Know the Code, a consortium of more than a dozen telephone service providers that serve Northeast Texas, anticipate a smooth transition for residents and businesses. Know the Code members include AT&T, CenturyTel, Eastex Telephone, Etex Telephone Co-op, Grande Communications, Ionex, Nextel, Nextel Partners, Peoples Telephone Co-op, SBC, Sprint, Tiagris and Verizon.
The companies have jointly conducted a customer education program, including print and radio advertisements to inform area residents and businesses of the changes and to urge them to reprogram their telecommunications equipment and services to dial 10 digits for local calls.