604-area code residents going to get digital 

Toronto residents are doing it now; New Yorkers have been doing it for years, and by Nov. 3 people in the Sea to Sky corridor and the Lower Mainland are going to have to do it too.

We're going digital, as in we're going to have to use more digits to make local phone calls and faxes.

Because of the proliferation of cellphones, fax machines, the Internet and other communication devices that use phone lines, the Lower Mainland is getting a second area code, 778. Beginning Nov. 3, all new phone numbers issued in the Greater Vancouver Regional District, Abbotsford and Mission will have the new 778 area code. New numbers in Squamish, Whistler and Pemberton will continue to be issued the 604 area code.

What that means is that all local calls in the Sea to Sky corridor, the GVRD, Abbotsford and Mission will require 10 digits. Even if you're in Whistler and calling your next door neighbour, you will have to dial 604 and then the seven digit number.

Emergency services, repair and directory assistance services, such as 911 and 411 calls, will not require the area code.

The transition period to 10-digit dialling starts May 26. As of that date, any local calls dialled with seven digits may be interrupted by a 10-second recording, reminding the dialler to include the area code in the local number. The call will then be connected.

Toronto began this transition period on Jan. 8. But according to telecommunications industry specialist Drew McArthur, 97 per cent of customers there were dialling 10 digits within three weeks.

McArthur recommends people in the Lower Mainland and the Sea to Sky corridor start using 10 digits on local calls now.

More importantly, individuals and companies are urged to prepare for 10-digit dialling. Speed diallers, auto-diallers and PBX systems used with alarm equipment will all have to be re-programmed. Data basis, voice mail systems and security systems may also have to be re-programmed.

Then you have to let the world know your "new" phone number. Business signs, business cards, advertising, stationery and other places where a phone or fax number appear will have to include the area code.

McArthur said each area code provides approximately 800,000 dialable numbers, but the Lower Mainland- and use of telecommunications devices - has grown to the point where the second area code is needed. He adds that growth in telecommunication is expected to continue and that in the next 10-15 years North America may have to go to a 12-digit dialling system.

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