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Optional 10-digit calling to start in 2 weeks in area

In about two weeks, northwest Ohio residents can dial 10 digits to make a local phone call.

The 419 region is adding an new area code, and the extra numbers won't be required for a year. But optional 10-digit dialing starts Dec. 1. For a year, local calls can be made using either the traditional seven digits or by adding the area code.

The second area code, 567, will be issued for all new telephone numbers assigned after Dec. 1, 2001. That means that a given house or business could have more than one phone line with different area codes.

It also means that after Dec. 1, 2001, all local calls will require 10-digit dialing.

The 567 code is being added in the 419 area because projections by the North American Numbering Plan Administration indicates that all the available phone lines assigned to 419 will be used up by the first quarter of 2002, if not sooner. Thousands of phone numbers have been gobbled up by computers and cellular phones.

The optional 10-digit dialing period will give businesses and others which use programmable equipment such as phone dialers, fax machines, pagers, cell phones, and dial-up Internet connections time to reprogram the equipment and print new business cards and stationery.

``This is like your practice run,” said Beth Gianforcaro, spokesperson for the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.

Only one other part of Ohio has used the “overlay” area code system, in which a new code is used within the same geographic area as the old code. Traditionally, area codes are split up to create new code zones. The overlay was approved for the 419 region in July by the utilities commission, after hearings.

To prepare for the 10-digit dialing, Lucas County's 911 emergency system is upgrading to equipment that by next month will have caller ID to read the 10-digit caller's number, said Dennis Cole, director of the county's emergency services.

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