New Area Code Phase-In Scheduled
By Carlos Morales
Move over 512. Get ready for 737. Plans are being finalized for a new area code for Central Texas. To help Austinites adjust to the new system, a phase-in program is to begin in December.
But a new area code could mean changes for local businesses.
Public Utility Commission members say that so far, the only big concern about the new digits is coming from fire and safety officials. They are worried they need more time to update equipment, like fire alarms that autodial when they smell smoke.
But for places with modern fire alarm systems, it shouldn’t be too hard. “The existing ones won’t have to have any change because they probably already have the 512 number into it, and the new area codes can be programed into new panels,” said Dan Poggemiller of Firetrol, a fire and security alarm company in Austin.
Other U.S. jurisdictions that recently adopted new area codes and 10-digit dialing didn’t appear to have any serious problems. Eastern Oklahoma did it last year. Lincoln, Neb., did too.
The state Public Utility Commission will also create a six-month phase-in period slated to begin December, to provide Austinites with time to adjust to the new area code.
But what about businesses that rely on and are even recognized by Austin’s original 512? Well, they’re not that worried about it either.
“I don’t think it’s going to affect us in any way, and I can’t imagine how it would affect anyone else,” said Jimmy Stewart, owner and co-founder of Do512, a local event listings website. “It’s at worst a slight inconvenience.”
It may be hard to tell how many problems will be caused by the switch to 10-digit dialing until it actually happens next June. But if it’s anything like what happened in other cities, get ready for the 512 area code to become a badge of coolness and authenticity, separating longer-term residents from the emerging 737ers.