[Vision2020] Idaho gets new 986 area code, in addition to 208

Tom Hansen thansen at moscow.com
Tue Nov 3 07:02:03 PST 2015

Courtesy of today's (November 3, 2015) Spokesman-Review.


Idaho gets new 986 area code, in addition to 208
By Betsy Z. Russell

BOISE – Idaho will add a second area code – 986 – in late 2017. 

That news follows the Idaho Public Utilities Commission’s unanimous decision Monday to implement the new area code as a “geographic overlay,” meaning new numbers statewide will get a 986 area code and existing numbers will keep 208. 

When the new code comes in, everyone will have to dial 10 digits for in-state calls.

Idaho was assigned the 208 area code in 1947, and it’s one of 12 states that still have just one area code statewide. Half of those states have a second code under consideration. Idaho is projected to run out of 208 numbers by the first quarter of 2018. 

The Public Utilities Commission rejected an alternative proposal for a geographic split, meaning half the state would get the new code and half would keep 208. That would have kept seven-digit calling within each of the two zones.

“Neither option is ideal,” the commission said in its order. But commissioners concluded that the overlay approach would cause less disruption and expense and make “everyone in the state… equally incur the annoyance of ten-digit dialing.” 

They noted that a phase-in period and the auto-dial function of cellphones would mitigate some of the inconvenience.

Idaho Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, a longtime critic of the Public Utilities Commission, noted that she didn’t recall the commission holding any town-hall meetings about the issue in her North Idaho district. But she said a north-south split would have been worse, if Boise got 208 and everyone in the north had to change. “They probably did the best they could do under the circumstances,” she said.

Industry comments from telecommunications providers and utilities commission staff recommendations were unanimous in favoring the geographic overlay. Roughly two-thirds of the 41 public comments the commission received favored a geographic split and one-third wanted the overlay. Most said they wanted to stick with seven-digit dialing. But utilities commission officials said seven-digit dialing is on the way out anyway, due to changing technology. 

In addition, the Federal Communications Commission has recommended the overlay approach as a “best practice,” and that’s the way most states have gone in recent years when they’ve added new codes.

West Virginia was the last state to try a geographic split; it reversed that decision in 2008, saying it posed too much of an economic burden. 

Idaho’s move will be phased in over 16 months, with a period of either seven- or 10-digit dialing starting around the end of 2016 and running for nine months. Mandatory 10-digit dialing will kick in for the fourth quarter of 2017


Seeya 'round town, Moscow, because . . .

"Moscow Cares" (the most fun you can have with your pants on)
Tom Hansen
Moscow, Idaho

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