FCC mandates new dialing for Vermont phone users

Telecoms must require seven digits for local phone calls for phone network to accommodate 988 number for suicide lifeline in 2022

Changes in local phone dialing are in the works as a result of a new Federal Communications Commission (FCC) order to ensure swift access to suicide prevention help.

On July 16, 2020, the agency adopted an order approving 988 as a three-digit abbreviated dialing code to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline starting July 16, 2022.

Until then, customers must continue to dial 1-800-273-8255 to reach the Lifeline.

According to a news release, the FCC order requires all telecommunications carriers, interconnected Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) providers, and one-way VoIP providers to make any necessary network changes to ensure that users can dial 988 to reach the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by that date.

For 988 to work in the 802 area code, every customer with a number in this area code with seven-digit local dialing must dial all 10 digits.

Beginning Saturday, April 24, consumers with numbers in the 802 area code should begin dialing 10 digits (area code, plus telephone number) for all local calls.

Beginning Oct. 24, all consumers with numbers in the 802 area code must dial 10 digits (area code plus telephone number) for all local calls. On and after this date, local calls dialed with only seven digits might not be completed, and a recording might inform you that your call cannot be completed as dialed.

Important safety and security equipment must be programmed to use 10-digit dialing. Many systems operate on 10-digit dialing by default, but some older equipment might still use seven digits.

Contact your medical alert or security provider if you are not sure whether your equipment needs to be reprogrammed to accommodate the upcoming changes. Any needed reprogramming of alarm and home security equipment must be made by Oct. 24 to avoid interruption of services.

Such equipment includes medical alert devices, alarm and security systems, life safety systems or medical monitoring devices, business phone systems, fax machines, internet dialup numbers, fire or burglar alarm and security systems or gates, speed dialers, mobile or other wireless phone contact lists, call forwarding settings, and voicemail services and other similar functions.

Phone users are advised to check their website, personal and business stationery, advertising materials, personal and business checks, contact information, personal identification, pet tags, and other such items to ensure the area code is included on published local phone numbers.

What will not change

• Your telephone number, including current area code, and the price of a call, coverage area, or other rates and services will remain.

• What is a local call now will remain a local call, regardless of the number of digits dialed.

• You will continue to dial 1, plus the area code, plus the telephone number for all long-distance calls.

• You will continue to dial a prefix (such as “9”) when dialing from a multi-line telephone system (as in a hotel, office building, etc.) as required.

• You can still dial just three digits to reach 711 (relay services) and 911 (emergency services).

• If 211 (health and well-being resources), 311 (municipal non-emergency number in some states), 411 (directory assistance), 511 (information about traffic and road conditions), 611 (number to report phone outages in some states), or 811 (call-before-you-dig number to identify buried utilities) are currently available in your community, continue to dial these codes with just three digits.

• The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can still be reached by dialing 1-800-273-TALK (8255), even after the 988 code goes into effect in 2022.

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