Ready or not, it's another disruption: 10-digit dialing - Albuquerque Journal

Ready or not, it’s another disruption: 10-digit dialing

Starting Oct. 24, New Mexico will switch to a mandatory 10-digit dialing system. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Just when life seems to be getting back to some semblance of normal – restaurants are back open, schools are back in session, and the Balloon Fiesta has come and gone – along comes the latest disruption: the 10-digit dial.

Those local friends and relatives that you have programmed into your cellphone? Add three digits, area codes 505 or 575.

Starting Oct. 24, New Mexico will switch to the 10-digit dialing system as it prepares for the 3-digit 988 national suicide hotline, which starts July 16, 2022.

The order, which came down from the Federal Communications Commission, requires all covered providers to make the 10-digit dial mandatory for local calls in the 505 and 575 area codes.

“An automated recording will advise callers that they need to use 10-digit dialing beginning Oct. 24, 2021, and seven-digit calls will no longer be completed,” a statement from the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission said. “… The implementation of this number requires 10-digit dialing for all in-state calls.”

It’s not just New Mexico. The FCC says 80 additional area codes in 35 states will be affected across the country.

To some, it is much ado about nothing.

“I would not notice any difference,” said Greg Esteban, a 58-year-old clinical nurse who lives in Sedillo.

“I came from the East Coast, where we had to do it, and lived in California for 15 years, where they did it, so when I came here it seemed weird that people weren’t doing it,” he said.

The biggest area of concern for residents was the possibility of problems for senior citizens making the switch, said Sarah Valencia, spokeswoman for the PRC.

“We don’t have control,” she said. “We are just making the announcement and hoping that six months-plus of notice gave people adequate time for the transition.”

Since April, PRC staffers have been encouraging residents to practice 10-digit dialing even though seven-digit dialing still works.

Valencia and Esteban said they believe the change is for a worthy cause.

New Mexico in 2019 ranked fourth in the U.S. for number of suicides per 100,000 population, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Wyoming had the highest rate, at 29.6, New Mexico came in at 24.1. That compares with the national rate of 13.9.

The pandemic is expected to push those numbers even higher.

On its website, the FCC says the suicide line will still be available at 800-273-TALK, even after the 988 service goes into effect.

Other states that are affected include Texas, Colorado, Hawaii and Nevada.

On the T-Mobile website, the provider notes that call prices, coverage area and other rates and services will also not be affected. Regardless of the number of digits required to dial, local calls will remain local and long distance will not change.

The change will affect some New Mexico businesses. According to the PRC, automatic dialing equipment such as fax machines, alarm systems and internet dial-up numbers may need to be reprogrammed.

Change, it seems, is inevitable, and New Mexicans might as well get used to it. Don’t forget: On Nov. 7, daylight saving time ends.

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