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A new area code is coming to Columbia and the Midlands. How will it affect you?

Move over, 803, there’s going to be a new area code in town.

Beginning in May, new phone customers could begin receiving the new 839 area code depending on where they live. The 803 and 839 codes will cover the same central South Carolina area, which stretches roughly from Rock Hill to Allendale and Sumter to Aiken.

And on April 25, customers making local calls will have to dial all 10 digits of the phone number, even if the call is to a number with the same area code. That change will affect mostly home land lines, as most mobile phones and office phone systems already require 10 digits, said Doug Pratt, an engineer with the S.C. Public Service Commission.

The change will be effective for home land lines in April in preparation for the May 839 launch.

A “permissive” period for 10-digit dialing begins Oct. 26, when customers can dial either 7 or 10 digits.

“This is to get people used to dialing a 10-digit number,” Pratt said. “In April it will become mandatory.”

area code map.JPG

The area code will be the fifth in the state, with 864 covering the Upstate, 803 in the Midlands and 843 and 854 in the Lowcountry.

The 803 area code includes York, Lancaster, Chester Lexington, Richland, Fairfield and Kershaw counties. Beginning May 26, it will have the 839 area code added. Here are some effects, according to the PSC.

Current telephone numbers, including the current area code, will not change. If a customer has an 803 area code, that area code will remain unchanged.

The price of a call, coverage area or other rates and services will not change because of the new area code..

Current local calls will remain a local call for billing purposes regardless of the number of digits dialed.

911 calls will remain unchanged.

If services accessed by dialing 211, 311, 411, 511, 611, 711 or 811 are currently available, they will remain unchanged.

All services, automatic dialing equipment or other types of equipment that are currently programmed to dial a 7-digit number will need to be reprogrammed to match the new dialing procedures. Some examples are life safety systems, stored telephone numbers in contact lists in phones, fax machines, Internet dial-up numbers and alarm and security systems.

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Jeff Wilkinson has worked for The State for both too long and not long enough. He’s covered politics, city government, history, business, the military, marijuana and the Iraq War. Jeff knows the weird, wonderful and untold secrets of South Carolina. Buy him a shot and he’ll tell you all about them.
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