EL PASO, Texas — Starting Sunday, phone users across portions of Texas and all of New Mexico must include area codes when dialing to make all calls, including local calls that previously only required seven digits.
The requirement for 10-digit dialing is taking hold in numerous states, affecting 82 area codes across the nation, and including the area codes for El Paso and Las Cruces, according to the Northern American Numbering Plan Administrator (NANPA).
The 915 area code which covers El Paso and Hudspeth counties is impacted by the change, as is the 575 area code which covers much of southern New Mexico - including Las Cruces and Alamogordo.
The change is being made in those area codes where some phone numbers have 988 prefixes. The Federal Communications Commission last year chose 988 for use as the three-digit abbreviated dialing code to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline starting next July.
Beginning Sunday, “calls dialed with only seven digits may not be completed, and a recording may inform you that your call cannot be completed as dialed,” New Mexico state officials said in a statement. Those callers have to hang up and dial again using the area code and seven-digit telephone number.
“It’s a minor inconvenience to reprogram the area code in our phones but it will make a huge difference if it will save a life and someone can call 988 when they’re having a mental health crisis,” said Dr. David Scrase, cabinet secretary for the New Mexico Human Services Department and acting secretary for the New Mexico Department of Health.
Things that won’t change include customers’ telephone numbers or area codes, the prices or rates of phone calls and the need for some long-distances callers to dial “1″ before the area code and the phone number, the NANPA said.