What the FCC 10 Digit Dialing Switch Means

The Federal Communication Commission is putting into effect the 10-digit dialing requirement for users in the 218 area code to open up access to crisis hotlines. Dialing a phone user in the 218 area code will now require three additional digits to ensure that calls are connected correctly.

Back in July 2020, the FCC put in place the rules that set up 988 as the new national suicide prevention hotlines. Beginning July 16th, 2022, phone service providers will direct all calls to 988 to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. This is now a dedicated number from which Americans anywhere in the United States can seek mental health counsel and assistance.

So, what does implementing a 10-digit dialing code mean?

Phone providers are required to implement a 10-digit dialing system in every area in the country to ensure all calls to 988 reach lifelines. These include areas that use the 7-digit dialing system and have 8 or 9 as the first numbers in the area code. This dialing system change greatly impacts areas with codes 952 and 218 in Minnesota.

History of 10-Digit Dialing

The 10-digit dialing telephone procedure is not new. It was first adopted in 1947 and used through 1992 in the United States and Canada, hence the name North American Numbering Plan (NANP). The ten digits of the phone number include the area code that initiates the phone call. A number with 11 digits is a 10-digit number prefixed with a 1 is known as the 1+10-digit dialing system or the National dialing format.

The United States and Canada adopted the NANP telephone number format to make it easier for callers to place calls within their exchange areas. This system made possible the common practice of dialing seven digits only to place local calls or calls within the Numbering Plan Area (NPA). Three digits dial the central office, while four digits are the number of the station the caller is trying to reach in the NPA.

Prefixing a telephone number with an area code makes up the ten numbers of the 10-digit dialing system. However, it is only necessary to dial all the ten digits when placing international calls or foreign NPA (FNPA).

Area Code Splits and Area Code Overlays

The story of the 10-digit dialing system is not complete without a mention of the area code splits and overlays.

By the year 1992, the technological advancements in the telecommunication industry were threatening the capacity of phone numbers within an area code. Since adopting the 10-digit dialing system, the US and Canada resolved this problem by dividing the phone numbers in the affected area codes into two or more parts, then assigning one of the splits a new area code.

The practice expanded the capacity of the numbering plan areas while preserving the 7-digit dialing system in the affected area codes. This solution was effective back then, and it explains how some geographical regions have different area codes.

Area code overlays were introduced in 1992 as a better solution to the phone number exhaustion problem. The advancement in telecommunication technologies by 1992 had made it possible for phone service operators to assign one geographic numbering plan area multiple area code numbers. The switching technology recognized local area codes and routed calls as required. However, the price of this efficiency was that dialers had to dial all the ten digits of the 10-digit dialing system to complete a call.

The fall of the overlay plans came with the need for callers to remember which area codes they could dial seven digits and which overlays required all the ten digits.

Timeline of The Switch to 10-Digit Dialing

Most areas that use the 10-digit dialing system also use area code overlays. In July 2020, the FCC issued an order that paved the way for the adoption of 10-digit dialing in all areas – including in areas whose codes are not overlaid. These areas still use a single area code and had previously used 7-digit dialing.

Areas with the code 988 as the central office code are affected because they conflict with the use of 988 as the nationwide National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in 2018. The North American Numbering Plan Administrator has a complete listing of affected area codes and resource materials for local government and community organizations.

Beginning on April 24th 2021, callers will need to dial all the ten digits of the phone number when placing locals in areas affected by the change. If the caller forgets and dials only the seven digits, excluding the area code, the provider will still complete their call.

From October 24th 2021, callers must dial all the ten digits of the phone number for local calls. Local calls placed after this date that do not meet the ten-digit requirement may not be completed. A playback recording will inform the caller that the call cannot be completed as dialed.

Beginning July 16th, all calls placed to 988 will be automatically routed to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

The Dialing System Switch Process

The FCC has assured Americans that the plan to use 988 as a suicide prevention lifeline will go a long way to save lives. The number is memorable and national. The commission urges residents in areas with the code 218 to start getting used to dialing all the ten digits of the phone number when placing local calls.

Despite looking like a simple switch, the adoption of 10-digit dialing is quite demanding and will not happen overnight. Customers, businesses, speed dialers, programmed numbers, contact lists, and call forwarding, and voicemail services will also have to be updated.


Change has never been easy. The number 988 was proposed and adopted as the nationwide number to provide an essential service for the better good. Despite the inconvenience, individuals and businesses in the affected area codes have ample time to update their documents and contacts. If you need guidance or assistance transitioning your business to 10-digit dialing, get help from the professionals at Mathe today.

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