Area code changes starting

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 14, 2005

NATCHEZ &045;&045; You can bet you’ll hear at least one phone slam down on its receiver and a few choice words erupt from its operator in nearly every Mississippi office come Monday.

Retraining fingers across the state to dial 10-digit phone numbers for local calls as opposed to the routine seven is going to take some time, but the phone companies say they’ve warned you.

BellSouth has spent the last few months sending out bill inserts, company newsletters, direct mail and press releases to tell the public that a change was coming. Monday’s addition of the 769 area code to Mississippi’s pre-existing 601, 662 and 228 numbers brought along the need for 10-digit numbers, said Mike Walker, director of External Affairs for BellSouth.

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With the addition of multiple telephone lines, cell phones, fax machines and pagers, the state is simply running out of numbers.

The 769 area code will overlay the 601 code area of central and south Mississippi. No 601 number will be changed, but new lines will receive the 769 code once the other numbers run out.

But everyone will have to dial the area code, no matter what it is, on every call.

Local calls will still be billed as local calls and do not require a 1 plus the area code. Long distance calls will still require the 1 plus the area code plus the number.

&uot;That’s a very time consuming thing,&uot; Natchez resident Kim Sithivong said. &uot;If there’s an emergency, that’s going to take time away.&uot;

Though Sithivong, who learned of the switch from her employer, said she hated the idea of dialing extra numbers now, she said she knew she’d soon adjust.

Callers who forget to dial the area code will receive a recorded message that directs them to dial 10 digits.

Sue Lee, a resident of Petal who was visiting Natchez this week, said she could see the change presenting problems for senior adults.

&uot;I don’t think it will be an inconvenience for me to switch over, but older seniors who are used to it, that will be an inconvenience. Young people adapt pretty quickly to changes.&uot;

Lee said she would have to spend time reprogramming the numbers in her cell phone to include the area code.

For Charles Godbold, change is a way of life and this latest one is nothing new, he said.

&uot;When I first came up here we only had to dial four numbers, in 1951,&uot; he said. &uot;They are going to complain, because people don’t like changes, but they’ll get used to it.&uot;

The change will also affect phone calls made from Natchez to Vidalia. Currently the 318 Concordia Parish area code is not necessary when calling Vidalia, but starting Monday it will be required. Phone calls from Vidalia to Natchez have always required the area code.