Just 15 years ago 843 seemed so fresh and new as it became the South Carolina Lowcountry’s new area code.
But over the years we’ve grown a great deal, and 843 has not changed, so we’re going to start seeing another area code soon.
Dear 843, it’s not you, it’s us.
The coastal counties and Pee Dee area have seen too much population growth to be served by just one number. That means it’s almost certain that some time in 2015 the 20 counties with an 843 area code will get an additional area code.
“All existing customers would retain the 843 area code and would not have to change their telephone numbers,” the South Carolina Public Service Commission said in a statement Tuesday.
So nobody would have to change their phone number, but with more than one area code for the region, everyone would have to dial 10 digits to make local phone calls — even if making a call to the same area code.
It used to be that when an area outgrew an area code, that area would be divided, with one section keeping the old area code and the other section getting a new one. That’s what happened as South Carolina grew from a single area code, 803, to the current three area codes.
The Upstate area switched to the 864 area code in 1996, and the Lowcounty and Pee Dee got the 843 area code in 1998, leaving the middle of the state with the original 803 code.
These days, new area codes are overlaid atop old ones, and that means people in the same community might have different area codes — even next-door neighbors.
The overlay system is meant to avoid the problems associated with changing people’s phone numbers.
With overlaid area codes, businesses will still see some costs, such as adding area codes to their contact information, and possibly modifying phone systems. For example, all employees will need to be able to make calls with area codes.
“For people in a house, it would just mean they have to dial three more digits,” said Michael Jones, president of Teleco in West Ashley. “For a business it could require reprogramming their system.”
“I don’t think the change will impact anyone in a serious, detrimental way,” he said. “This has been common practice for quite some time in metropolitan areas up north.”
The Charlotte and Raleigh areas in North Carolina each have two area codes. Downtown Atlanta has three area codes, and the surrounding suburbs have three as well. In New York City, Manhattan has three area codes and greater Queens has four.
The new area code for the Lowcountry hasn’t been determined yet by the North American Numbering Plan Administration. According to the South Carolina Public Service Commission, an additional area code should cover the region’s demand for phone numbers for 28 years.
The commission will hold a hearing on the area code change on Dec. 3. Additional information related to the petition (Docket No. 2013-207-C) can be found on the commission’s website at psc.sc.gov.
Reach David Slade at 937-5552 or Twitter @DSladeNews.