In 1947, area codes were introduced to the United States and Canada. The 916 area code was one of the original three area codes in California, along with 415 and 213.
US states and Canadian provinces that were only assigned one area code for the entire state or province had a “0” in the middle of the assigned area code. States and provinces that had more than one area code assigned to them had a “1” in the middle of each of the area codes.
Because rotary dialing could be laborious, highly populated areas such as New York (212) and Southern California (213) were assigned low numbers to minimize the duration of “pulls” on a rotary dial.
916 Area Code Numbers Were Running Out
The 916 area code serves the greater Sacramento area, which includes parts of El Dorado, Solano, Sutter, Yolo, Placer, and Sacramento Counties.
As with other parts of the United States and Canada, population growth and the proliferation of mobile phones has resulted in the pool of numbers within an area code running out. According to the California Public Utilities Commission, the 916 area code was forecasted to use up all its available prefixes by the 1st quarter of 2018.
Because of this, the CPUC approved a new area code, 279, which was introduced in September, 2017.
On Feb. 9, 2017, the CPUC announced that area code 279 would be introduced as an overlay. The good news about an overlay is that no existing numbers with 916 area codes were converted to 279. This only happens with an area code “split”.
However, with an overlay, a newly formed business across the hall may have a phone number that begins with area code 279, while your business’s number still begins with 916.
Because of the overlay, all calls made within the current 916 service area need to start with the area code as of September 2017. Dialing only seven digits results in an intercept message.
In general, landlines also require a 1 to be dialed in front of the area code. Mobile phones and VoIP phones typically do not require a 1.
An aside: Like mobile phone numbers, business VoIP numbers are portable. If you have a VoIP phone system and you were to relocate your business to, say, the 209 area code, you could retain your current 916 numbers.
What Does The 279 Area Code Overlay Mean for Sacramento Area Businesses?
While it was not even close to a Y2K event, there are a few things that need to be considered.
Speed Dial Numbers
If your desk phone’s preprogrammed speed dial numbers within the 916 area code are currently stored as seven digits, these may no longer work as of September 2017. You, an administrator or your business telephone partner needs to change stored numbers such as 555-1212 to 916-555-1212.
If you have any type of call forwarding pointing to a seven digit number within the 916 area code, the 916 prefix needs to be added to the forwarding string.
If your company’s burglar alarm is programmed to dial a local seven digit number rather than a toll free number, the alarm should be reprogrammed to dial 1 + 916 + the seven digit number. CBS Sacramento reported on this.
Security Doors and Gate Systems
If any point of entry devices are currently programmed to dial seven digits, 1 + 916 should be added.
Your Local Customers
Of course, your customers within the 916 area code need to dial your area code first as well.
The 916 area code split with the 279 overlay is going to take a little getting used to for all involved. The big change in habit is that all phone numbers, even area code 916 numbers, will need to be dialed using ten or eleven digits.