SOUTH JERSEY — If you live south of about Lanoka Harbor, you probably have a 609 area code, the second oldest in the state, only behind 201. The only problem with a 60-year-old area code is the fact that it will eventually run out of numbers.
In fact, “eventually” is more like “before the end of this year”.
With critical mass right around the corner, next month new phone numbers in South Jersey will be assigned a new area code – 640.
If you already have a 609 area code, it’s not going to go away, but one change will be that you’ll have to dial the full 10 digit phone number, even within the same area code (which, if we’re being honest I think most people do these days anyway).
It really wasn’t that long ago that the Garden State only had two area codes that firmly delineated north and south Jersey – 201 north of Trenton, and 609 to the south.
Then, the 90s rolled around, and so did cell phones, fax machines (remember those?), and dial up internet services, and we went from two area codes to nine in only ten years.
So, be proud of your 609 phone number! It’s not only one of the oldest in New Jersey, but one of the oldest in the whole country, and pretty soon it’ll be a closed club that won’t be accepting new members.
The new 640 area code will be added to the existing 609 region, including Atlantic, Cape May and parts of Ocean County. While the new area code will not change existing numbers, it will be added as new telephone lines and services are added.
In April 2017, the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities approved a plan to overlay 640 to the existing 609 coverage area, after a study found the region would run out of available phone numbers in the third quarter of 2018. Heading into the new year, the BPU is advising residents in the 609 area code region to be prepared to change the way you make a call.
“When calling another number, you will have to dial the area code first, even if it’s 609 to 609,” said Gregory Reinert, director of communications for the Board of Public Utilities. “You should start getting used to dialing 10 digits.”
The dialing procedure primarily affects calls made to and from landline phones. According the Pew Research Center, 95 percent of American adults have at least one cellphone.
Started in January, a period of “permissive dialing” will start. According to the BPU, calls within the new 609/640 overlay area code will still be placed if dialed without the area code.
The 10-digit dial procedure will go in effect August 18. Calls without an area code will not be completed.
The 640 area code will be issued for new telephone lines or services starting September 17.
Many South Jersey businesses still advertise without including the area code. Reinert added that the change is very important for automated dialing services used by local and state offices.
“We want to get the message out to public safety or state offices to reprogram speed dialers or call-transferring equipment to the 10-digit area code and phone numbers, so there’s no issue going further into the year,” Reinert said.
The BPU said in a press release that three-digit special service numbers, including 911 and 411, will remain the same and assured residents that the price of a call, coverage area, or other rates and services will not change.