A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Starting Sunday, landline callers must dial 859 area code to place local calls as cell phone users do

Starting Sunday, anyone living within Kentucky’s 859 area code who now place local calls on a landline phone by entering seven-digits must enter both the three-digit area code and the seven-digit telephone number to complete the call, even if the area code is the same as your own.

In addition to people who are in the 859 area code in Kentucky, there are 81 other area codes in 34 more states and one U.S. territory that that will also be making the same transition to 10-digit calling over the weekend.  The remainder of Kentucky is not affected.

Landline phone (Wikimedia Commons

According to the Federal Communications Commission, on and after Oct. 24, local calls dialed with only seven digits may not be completed, and a recording will inform you that your call cannot be completed as dialed. You must hang up and call again using the area code and the seven-digit number.

The FCC says there are more phones in America than there are people, and each phone needs its own phone number. Beginning in the early 1990s, to accommodate the growing need for more phone numbers, some areas began to add a second area code for local calls. Dialing both the area code and the seven-digit number was necessary to ensure the call reached the intended recipient.

As more area codes begin to run out of new seven-digit numbers to assign, a second local area code may be added, requiring that area to transition to ten-digit dialing.

In 2020, the FCC established “988” as the new, nationwide three-digit phone number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The new three-digit dialing code will be available nationwide by July 16, 2022 and will provide an easy to remember and easy to dial three-digit number to reach suicide prevention and mental health counselors, similar to “911” for emergencies and “311” for local government services. To help facilitate the creation of “988”, area codes that use “988” as a local exchange, or the first three digits of a seven-digit phone number, will need to use 10-digit dialing.

Businesses also need to take note. If your company uses a PBX or VoIP phone system, you may need to update or reprogram it for ten-digit dialing.  Because ten-digit dialing is now available in areas where seven-digit dialing is being phased out, reprogramming of PBX or VoIP systems can begin at any time.  The FCC says you should plan to complete any needed reprogramming and test your system before October 24.

Remember, this is for landline phones only. Mobile phones are not affected, as they already require ten-digit calling for local as well as long distance calls.


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