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Atmore gets new area code

By By Robert Blankenship
Advance Managing Editor
Out with the old and in with the new.
Soon, residents of Atmore and the rest of Southwest Alabama will have to remember a new number as the Alabama Public Service Commission has announced plans to implement a new area code in the region.
The new area code will be 251. But, a plan for implementing the new number has yet to be announced.
At a September meeting, the Telecommunications Division Director updated the commission on the situation with the already existing 334 and 205 area codes.
On Monday, the commission voted 3-0 to split the current 334 area code in half. The new area code will be used from Coffeeville in Clarke County to Pine Apple in Wilcox County and then to Brooklyn in Conecuh County. However, the change is not expected to take affect for some time.
According to Godwin, the APSC had to choose between two options – area code overlay, which would require two codes in one area, or the area code split. The split uses boundaries of existing calling areas and divides them. In this case, the split was the Mobile and Montgomery calling areas.
Cities in southeast Alabama such as Dothan, Auburn and Montgomery will keep the 334 number. The changes will not affect current long-distance and local call statuses.
According to the NANPA, the continued growth of the telecommunications industry, including cellular service, paging and local telephone competition, has caused a high demand for new prefix codes (the first three digits of a phone number) in the 334 calling area. As of April of this year, there were only 155 prefixes remaining out of 800 for the 334 area code.
Like everyone else, Frontier will have to wait to learn when the change will be taking place.
Godwin also said there should be a permissive dialing phase which allows calls dialed with the old area code to go through for a certain amount of time after the number has been changed. Typically, that period is six months. After that, the caller must dial the new area code.
No matter what happens, Godwin said Frontier customers will be kept up-to-date on any new information or changes.
Also during their meeting Monday, the commission agreed to require all phone companies in Alabama to program their switches to complete local calls even if the area code is dialed in addition to the seven-digit local number.
Changes are also expected in the near future for changes in the 205 (North Alabama) calling area.