Mandatory area code use starts Oct. 24 |

Mandatory area code use starts Oct. 24

Suzie Romig

Longtime locals and businesses with older phone-based technology will need to retrain their fingers and possibly reprogram some systems by Oct. 24, when 10-digit dialing becomes mandatory for all phone systems in the 970 area code in Colorado.

The move this month to require 10-digit dialing across multiple states and area codes is part of a Federal Communications Commission change determined in July 2020 that will allow the addition of a nationwide 988 three-digit number to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline starting July 16, 2022.

Routt County Communications Manager Jim Cullen said the change will not disrupt emergency services since dialing 911 already is the standard.

Routt County Communications is the consolidated Emergency Communications Center that provides public safety communication services for nine primary and 21 other support agencies in Routt County, including local and county law enforcement, emergency medical services, fire protection, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and local and county public works.

Cullen, who started in the position in July moving from the Chicago area, said many residents who move to Routt County from larger communities are already accustomed to dialing 10-digit phone numbers. He said local alarm or medical alert systems likely already dial out to a 10-digit number at a consolidated call center in a larger, distant area or to a toll-free 800 number.

Cullen said residents who have lived in the area a long time might be most impacted, but the new requirement will only be an inconvenience until habits change.

“I don’t expect any impact on emergency services,” Cullen said. “The biggest problem in the community is the annoyance of getting used to or remembering to add the 970. If a phone call doesn’t go through, they have to remember it’s not the phone system, it’s most likely they are misdialing.”

As a cautionary measure, instead of assuming the change will not cause an issue, Cullen suggests residents double check with providers of medical alert, burglary, fire alarm or security companies to make sure 10-digit dialing is already in place for their systems.

Jon Quinn, owner of Northwest Data Services in Steamboat, said the change may lead to few headaches.

“We’re surely going to run into a few odds and ends that people have forgotten about, such as saved numbers, fax systems and speed dials, on people’s older phone systems that won’t work anymore,” Quinn said. “There’s no question our senior population may be most impacted; there may be more of a learning curve.”

Communication companies, such as CenturyLink, are mailing informational postcards to local residents that list other examples where phone numbers might need to be updated or reprogrammed, such as business promotional materials and signs, websites, pet ID tags, voicemail services, speed and auto dialers, forwarding settings, fax machines, copiers used for fax services or internet dial-up numbers.

According to the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies, a local call will remain a local call regardless of the number of digits dialed. Callers will continue to dial one plus the area code plus the telephone number for long-distance calls.

The gradual changeover began April 24 with a transitional time when consumers could dial seven or 10 digits. Since late April, if a consumer forgot to include the area code, the call was still completed. Starting Oct. 24, the grace period will end.

According to DORA officials, 37 states and 83 area codes are impacted by this month’s change to mandatory 10-digit dialing. More information is available on the FCC website,

DORA information explains that the 303 area code, which was implemented in 1947, originally served the entire state of Colorado. The 719 area code was created in 1988, the 970 area code in 1995 and the 720 area code in 1998. A fifth, forthcoming area code for Colorado of 983 was approved in May by the Colorado Public Utilities Commission.

Starting April 12, 2022, telephone customers in the 303/720 area code overlay region who request new service, an additional line or to move their service may be assigned the new 983 area code.

Quinn said his company also has assisted a number of local lodging properties due to another FCC change related to Kari’s Law and Ray Baum’s Act. The public safety laws require that phones in lodging properties relay an exact dispatchable location, including room number to emergency services and that 911 can be reached without dialing another number in advance from multiline telephone systems.

Quinn has assisted about a dozen local lodging properties with upgrades and noted two local condo complexes removed fixed phones from individual units rather than upgrade older phone systems since guests usually have cellphones.

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