The great area code 934 countdown is underway, with the new code’s debut and associated dialing changes fast approaching.
Officially, the last day Suffolk County residents can dial just seven digits (that means no area code needed) for local, intracounty calls is June 17, carriers and the state Public Service Commission said.
That means that to be good to go on June 18, now is the time to reprogram the local seven-digit numbers stored in personal phones, as well as be sure that any service that involves automatic dialing, such as an alarm system, has been updated with the code.
There will be no need to dial a “1” for calls made from a Suffolk number to another Suffolk number, as it remains a local call, officials said.
Phone customers since last July have had the opportunity to get into the swing of 10-digit dialing, with Suffolk residents being in what the PSC calls a “permissive dialing phase.”
That permissive option goes away, though, as of 12:01 a.m. on June 18, when intra-county callers who slip and dial just seven digits will hear a recording telling them to hang up and dial again, using the area code, a PSC spokesman said.
For now, the only code in town remains 631, but after 934 makes its debut on July 16, it will gradually be added into the mix. Existing phone numbers are to remain the same, but anyone in the county requesting new service, an added line or possibly a move of their service, could be assigned the new code.
That goes for residential, business and wireless service.
As of that date, carriers could still have a ready supply of 631 numbers, so the influx of the new code could take time to build up steam, said John Manning, senior director of the North American Numbering Plan Administration, which oversees telephone resources, including area codes.
This second code is coming about because 631, which was created for Suffolk in 1999 as the result of a split from the Island’s 516 area code, “is running out of assignable telephone numbers, and implementation of a new area code is necessary,” said a June 16, 2014, report from the state Department of Public Service.
Each new area code starts out with 800 prefixes — the three numbers following the code — with a few prefixes, such as 911, not assignable, Manning said. At this point, the 631 code is down to just about 30 prefixes, he said.
The “overlay” approach that lets current customers keep 631 while new customers may be assigned 934, was approved in December 2014 over a “geographic split,” which would have seen residents on one side of a line keeping 631 and those on the other making the switch. The PSC determined the overlay was “easier to implement from a technical standpoint and less expensive from a customer standpoint, especially for business customers,” officials said in the news release at the time.
Though issues may arise down the road, Matthew Cohen, the Long Island Association’s vice president for government affairs and communications, said he hasn’t heard recently of concerns from the business community. The overlay approach is “less onerous, burdensome and expensive” to organizations that otherwise, under the geographic approach, might have had to update all their branding — such as websites, stationery and business cards, Cohen said.
Likewise, the coming need to dial 10 digits isn’t that much of a burden, he said. “I think Long Islanders are pretty resilient.”