HANCOCK COUNTY — In a few months, Hancock County residents and businesses will have to revise the way they make local phone calls.
In 2014, the Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor reported that the 317 area code, which covers Indianapolis and much of the surrounding area, including Hancock County, would exhaust the supply of numbers by 2017. In response, the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission, which oversees much of the telecommunications industry, added 463 as a new area code that will serve the region in the future.
The shift, which begins next month, will require residents to begin making all phone calls — even local — by dialing the full 10-digit number, including area code.
Current customers with long-established 317 numbers were not required to change their phone numbers.
The change, which starts March 19, will be accompanied by a grace period; most calls will go through even if callers forget the new dialing procedures, said Megan Wade-Taxter, public relations manager for the utility regulatory commission.
Starting Sept. 17, 10-digit dialing will become mandatory; calls lacking the area code won’t be completed, and a recording will instruct callers to hang up and redial, Wade-Taxter said.
“We’re providing that period of time to ease people into it,” Wade-Taxter said.
Starting in October, residents who open a new phone line will begin receiving 463 area codes, which spells out “IND” on the keypad.
The shift will require a significant adjustment for businesses and residents alike.
David Spencer, director of marketing for Greenfield-based NineStar Connect, said the company is trying to spread word to its roughly 7,000 customers who receive phone service.
In its most recent newsletter to customers, the company included instructions for the best way for prepare for the shift.
All devices programmed with 7-digit numbers, including fax machines, alarm systems and voicemail services, will need to be updated before the final September switchover, Spencer said.
For many residents, the biggest hassle will likely come from cellular service.
Nancy Allen of Greenfield, who relies on her cellphone for almost all communication with friends and family, said she’ll need to add area codes to all of her contacts; previously, she left area codes off many local numbers.
“It’ll take a little getting used to,” Allen said, “but I guess now’s the time to prepare.”
Carrie Boatwright, manager of The Cellular Connection Verizon Wireless retailer in Greenfield, said the shift could present a few hurdles for the local shop.
Though Boatwright said she isn’t sure what specific changes the shift will require, she’s hoping it’s not as intensive as the last area code shift she oversaw.
Boatwright helped cellphone customers navigate a similar transition in 2002 when she was working at a Verizon store in Fort Wayne, which at the time was switching from a 765 area code to 260.
During the period, Boatwright had to reprogram hundreds of phones for customers to prepare for the switch; she’s hoping with better technology, that won’t be the case this go-around, she said.
“We’ll just have to wait and see what it means for us,” Boatwright said.
For more information, visit the utility regulatory commission’s webpage about the transition, in.gov/iurc/2808.htm.