Once the telephone area code was not a big deal. All of South Carolina was area code 803. That was a quarter century ago, before the state’s population began swelling (it is now at 5 million) and when cellphones were in their infancy. Times have changed.
When South Carolina first added the 864 area code for the Upstate and then 843 for the coast (which also now has 854), the center of the state retained 803. Orangeburg County, in fact, made a big deal out having the entire county remain in the same area code though its large land area places some people in the Midlands and others in the Lowcountry.
Because of the proliferation of phone numbers, creating more area codes has become necessary.
Until now, adding an area code for the Midlands has not been necessary. That is about to change.
Beginning on May 26, 2020, new numbers with the area code 839 will be available locally. And that will mean a change for local calls. No longer will a call go through by just dialing the prefix and number. An area code will be required for all calls.
Here’s key information you need to know per Verizon Wireless:
• 911 calls are not affected. Only three digits will be required.
• For 211, 311, 411, 511, 611, 711 or 811, you'll still be able to call using three digits.
• You won't have to change your existing area code or phone number.
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• Anyone who has a phone number with an 803 area code will be affected, as well as anyone who receives a phone number from the 839 area code in the future.
• Because more than one area code will serve the same geographic area, if you have an 803 or 839 phone number, you'll need to enter the area code for all calls.
• You should start entering the area code for all calls now. Without it, calls will go through until the grace period ends on May 26, 2020. After that, they will not.
• Update any preprogrammed seven-digit phone numbers in your mobile device to include the area code, as well as any text or email alert services, and any call-forwarding services.
• Reprogram all services and devices that are currently programmed to use a seven-digit phone number to include the area code, including automatic dialing equipment. Some examples are life safety systems and medical-monitoring devices, fire or burglar alarm and security systems, speed dialers, fax machines, voice mail services.
• Check your websites, personal and business stationery, advertising materials, personal and business checks, contact information, personal or pet ID tags, and other such items to ensure the area code is included.
• The price of a call, coverage area or other rates and services will not be affected.
While the expansion from just one area code in South Carolina was unpopular in the 1990s, so much has changed regarding telephone communications that the addition of area code 839 for the Midlands now will be just another fact of life to which adjustment will be required -- three more numbers on the keypad of life.