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RICHMOND, Va. - The telecommunications industry will launch on June 1 the new 434 area code to serve parts of central and southside Virginia. This brings to six the number of area codes in the Old Dominion, four of which were introduced within the last six years.
The 434 code, which was carved out of the existing 804 area, will serve areas to the south and west of the Greater Richmond area, including the cities of Charlottesville, Danville and Lynchburg. (See related map online at www.state.va.us/scc/news/map.pdf)
The counties that will be converting to the new area code include Albermarle, Fluvanna, Buckingham, Nelson, Amherst, Appomattox, Campbell, Pittsylvania, Halifax, Charlotte, Prince Edward, Nottoway, Lunenburg, Mecklenburg, Brunswick and Greensville.
Portions of additional counties are also affected by the area code, including the southern portion of Green County, southwestern Louisa County, eastern Bedford County, southern Cumberland County, southwestern Sussex County, extreme western Southampton County, and small sections of southeastern Dinwiddie and neighboring southern Prince George counties.
The 804 area code will continue to serve the Greater Richmond area, as well as the town of West Point and communities on the upper and middle peninsulas.
While dialing begins June 1, there will be a seven-and-a-half-month grace period in which callers can dial either the new or old area code and the call will go through. However, beginning Jan. 15, 2002, those who make a long distance call into the southern and western portions of what is now the 804 area will be required to use the new 434 code.
The grace period allows customers changing to the new 434 area code time to notify friends, family and business associates of their new number. Also, people who call numbers changing to the new 434 area code will have time to reprogram automatic dialing equipment and databases.
The change 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 434 area code.
A dwindling supply of telephone exchange codes in the 804 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. Thousands of customers are now linked to the outside world through fax machines, pagers, cellular phones, modems and other communications devices.
In addition, the growing number of telecommunications companies competing for local phone service in the state require a large supply of numbers to serve their customers.
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 make modifications to their in-house 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 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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