Beginning on Saturday, all residents in the Pee Dee and Lowcountry regions of the state will be required to type the full ten-digit phone number anytime they make a call.
That’s because a new area code takes effect in the 843 zone next month. Starting next month, the 854 area code will be assigned to any new numbers in the region.
While pretty much every South Carolinian who lives within 60 miles of the coast will get to keep their current number, they will now have to dial 1-843 to complete it. The new dialing will be necessary even for local calls.
The North American Numbering Plan Administrator (NANPA) — the private company that handles the routing of calls across area codes — petitioned for the change two years ago. NANPA says the new area code is needed due to “number exhaustion” as the Charleston, Myrtle Beach, and Hilton Head/Bluffton regions continue to grow. The South Carolina Public Service Commission later ordered the 854 area code to “overlay” or superimpose over the current 843 region.
Office of Regulatory Staff telecommunications director Chris Rozycki said all new phones will now get the 854 area code. “None of the existing customers is harmed by the new area code, in essence,” he told South Carolina Radio Network. “It’s only new companies and new consumers that move in.” Calls in the 843 and 854 region will still be treated as local and prices will not increase because of the change, he said.
Rozycki said regulators favor overlaying area codes, because it creates less of a headache for residents who would lose their existing phone number if the current zone split off into two new ones. He said, while two area codes in one area is new to South Carolina, more populated regions like Atlanta have been using them for years.
South Carolina has two other area codes: 864 in the Upstate and 803 in the Midlands region.
Rozycki said most traditional home and cell phone service will not be affected, other than the need to dial 10 digits for local numbers instead of seven. However, he said home or business owners may need to reset their fax machines, computer DSL lines, or alarm systems if a 7-digit phone number is involved.
“All of those numbers and situations will need to be reprogrammed to 10-digit numbers,” he said. “Where they are probably currently programmed to dial seven digits only.”