10-digit dialing begins in 256 area code

By Dixon Hayes

ANNISTON, AL (WBRC) - Fingers will be busier now in Alabama's 256 area code.  So will brains.  

Beginning this week, callers in the 256 area code must now punch in ten digits: area code + number, to make any phone call, including local calls to your neighbor, your favorite pizza place, or anyone.
Also, callers in the 256 area code will have a new area code to learn.  Current numbers will still have the 256 area code, but newly assigned numbers, beginning in July, will have the 938 area code.
Confused? You're not the only one.  
"I was like, what? Somebody told me about it the other day," recalls Carla Wooten of Gadsden.  "I was like, what are you talking about? I didn't get the memo on the new dialing thing."
Callers who now punch in only seven digits in that area will get a special recording, which Wooten says she got several times on Monday.
Others say they can get used to it.  One man who has Sprint for his cell phone provider was even able to make seven digit calls as late as Monday.
"It's probably bothersome to some," says the man in question, Jimmy O'Dell of Anniston, "but, you know, I can deal with it."
AT&T spokesperson Hood Harris tells FOX6 News the company was simply running out of phone numbers.  The unusual idea -- two area codes in the same geographic area -- was meant to make life simpler for customers.
"In the past we split up area codes at times," says Harris, "but if you do that, half the customers and buisnessess have to get new phone numbers. This way everybody keeps their same phone number."
The ten digit calling plan became mandatory on Saturday, June 5.  It has been in effect for several months before that, to give callers a chance to get used to it.  
And when AT&T published the new phone book and Yellow Pages for Calhoun County in March, all of the numbers -- business, government, residential -- were laid out in ten digit format, a first for the area.
The 256/938 area code includes Calhoun, Etowah, Blount and Cullman Counties in the FOX6 area, as well as much of Talladega County and a small part of St. Clair, and also includes the greater Huntsville area.  AT&T says that area code is one of the fastest growing in the state.

Copyright 2010 WBRC.  All rights reserved.