Eli5: what do the new “988” service and my area code have to do with each other?


I got a text today that TMobile is working on implementing the FCC’s new “988” service for mental health crisis. Like dialing 911, but this will be 988. Anyways, my area code, 708, is one of a handful effected by this that T-Mobile says I will need to dial the full 10 digits even for local calls. Just wondering if anyone can explain why this would be? What do these two things (new “988” service and my area code) have to do with each other? TIA.

In: Technology

When the new 9-8-8 number takes effect, dialing those three digits will immediately connect you to the hotline. Much like dialing 9-1-1, once you dial 9-8-8, everything else is ignored.

This is problematic for any existing phone numbers with a 988 central office code. The central office code consists of the three digits immediately following the area code. This means that, when dialing seven digits, the central office code consists of the first three digits. Once the 9-8-8 hotline is activated, any phone number with a 988 central office code will no longer be able to be dialed using seven digits.

To make things consistent, the FCC has decided to mandate 10-digit dialing for any area code with a 988 central office code, unless that central office code gets retired before the 9-8-8 hotline goes live.

Okay, so every phone number in the U.S. has 10 digits: (XXX) YYY – ZZZZ

The first 3 numbers (XXX) make up your *area code*, the next 3 numbers (YYY) are your *central office code,* and the last 4 numbers (ZZZZ) make up your *station code.*

For a long time, each geographic region got assigned one area code, and you could call someone in your local area without dialing the area code first. Basically, you could enter YYY-ZZZZ and the call would automatically be sent to the 7-digit number within the same area code you were calling from.

As the population grew, however, many areas ran out of number combinations. To fix this, they had to assign multiple area codes to the same geographic region. That meant, however, that your service provider couldn’t just assume which area code you were trying to dial. In those places, it became necessary to manually dial the area code before the 7-digit phone number (so you would dial all 10 digits: XXX-YYY-ZZZZ).

Still, some places do continue to allow 7-digit dialing…and this is where 988 comes in. With in your 708 area code, there are phone numbers that have 988 as their central office code
> (708)**988**-ZZZZ, which you were previously allowed to enter as just 988-ZZZZ.

Because dialing 988 first interferes with routing calls to the 988 hotline, every region that has a 988 central office number in it has to switch to 10-digit dialing. (This fixes the problem of dialing 988 first because 988 isn’t an assigned area code in the U.S.)