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RICHMOND, Va. -- The telecommunications industry will launch the new
276 area code on Sept. 1 to serve far southwest Virginia. This brings to seven the
number of area codes in the Old Dominion, five of which were introduced within the last
The 276 code, which was carved out of the existing 540 area, will serve 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 Roanoke,
Staunton, Harrisonburg, Winchester and Fredericksburg.
Starting Sept. 1, customers can dial either the new or old area code and their call
will go through. However, beginning March 16, 2002, those who make a long-distance call to
far southwest Virginia must use the new 276 code.
The grace period beginning Sept. 1 allows customers changing to the new 276 area code
time to notify friends, family and business associates of their new number. Also, people
who call numbers changing to the new 276 area code will have this time to reprogram fax
machines, automatic dialing equipment, computers and databases.
The change has no effect on rates or on local calling areas. Local calls today will
remain local calls after the introduction of the 276 area code. Emergency 911 dialing is
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 growing demand for phone numbers is sparked in large measure by the
communications revolution. The growing number of telecommunications companies
competing for local phone service in the state 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
Area codes have traditionally had either a "0" or a "1" as a
second digit. However, all of those codes are now used. Some businesses and other
institutions may have to modify their switchboards 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.
The 276 area code is the newest code in Virginia. On June 1, the industry introduced the
434 area code, which serves parts of central and southside Virginia -- an area formerly
in the 804 area code.
The 571 area code, an overlay area code, joined the 703 code two years ago to serve
Northern Virginia. 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 split from 703, dates to 1973.
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