Beginning Sunday, you'll have to dial the area code for local calls

·2 min read

Oct. 18—You may just be calling your next-door neighbor or the pizza place down the street, but beginning Oct. 24, you'll have to include the area code when you dial.

For New Hampshire residents, this means starting the call by punching in 603.

And if you previously dialed seven digits for long distance, you will now have to dial 1 plus the area code and then the seven-digit telephone number to complete the call.

Beginning Sunday, telephone numbers with fewer than 10 digits will not go through, except for 911 and other three-digit services. And if you fail to include the area code when you dial, according to the Federal Communications Commission, you will hear a recording telling you "your call cannot be completed as dialed."

This is in preparation for the rollout of a new three-digit number to be used nationwide in 2022 to reach the National Suicide Prevention and Mental Health Crisis Lifeline. Beginning July 16, the FCC will adopt 988 for the Lifeline.

In order for this system to work, 10-digit local calling must be in place, the FCC says, because there are 82 area codes in 35 states and one U.S. territory that currently use 988 as a local exchange and allow seven-digit dialing. New Hampshire, where 988 is a Portsmouth exchange, is among the states affected.

Transitioning to 10-digit dialing won't change your phone number or the price of a local call, according to Consolidated Communications, a major telephone service provider for the Monadnock Region. "What is a local call now will remain a local call regardless of the number of digits dialed," Consolidated said in a notice to customers.

Vermont is also affected by the change, and telephone customers there will have to add the 802 area code when making a local call.

The FCC says businesses that use a Private Branch Exchange (PBX) or Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone system will need to update or reprogram it for 10-digit dialing. This can be done at any time before Oct. 24.

Other equipment that might need to be reprogrammed includes medical monitoring devices, fax machines, dial-up Internet, security systems, speed dial, mobile and other wireless phone contact lists, voicemail systems and call forwarding.

Until the new 988 number goes into effect next July, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached by dialing 1-800-273-TALK (8255).