Whidbey residents may see phone-related changes in the new year.
Phone companies will begin issuing a new “overlay” area code in Western Washington, possibly beginning in the latter part of the year. The 564 area code will be added in areas currently covered by area codes 360, 206, 425 and 253, according to the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission.
Current phone numbers won’t be changed. The new area code will be used when phone companies issue new phone numbers.
The reason for the change is that the federal Communications Commission Numbering Plan Administrator predicts that unique phone numbers in the 360 area code will be exhausted in 2018. Phone numbers in the area code are becoming exhausted faster than earlier estimated.
“In recent years, a combination of new technologies and increased consumer demand for regular telephones in homes and offices, cellular and PCS phones, pagers, lines used for fax machines, modems, internet access, and other uses have strained existing telephone number resources,” the North American Numbering Plan Administration reported.
A side effect of the new overlay area code is mandatory 10-digit dialing by the fall. The means that people in the region will have to dial a “1” and the area code even for local calls.
Inefficient allocation of prefixes without number pooling has been the main cause of area code exhaustion nationwide, the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission reports. State and federal regulators have implemented measures to increase the efficient use of the existing supply of numbers, such as number pooling to allow up to 10 companies to share a single telephone prefix.
In addition, federal regulations require all service providers to allow customers to keep their existing numbers when there is a change in service provider, location or service.
As a result of the change, businesses should update fax machines, message detail recording equipment, alarm services and PC modems, regulators suggest. Also, the 10-digit numbers should be added to all printed materials.