After years of speculation, decades actually, and several false alarms, Nebraska will be getting a third area code for general telephone service. (Isn't this exciting? Yeah, right!)
The number of available prefixes in 402 is really-truly approaching exhaustion, even with a judicious degree of sharing of many prefixes between providers. (Yes, you can now get an 'Omaha' cell phone with a 'Springfield' prefix of 402-253!)
NPA (Area Code) 531 will go live in early 2011, overlaying the area currently served by Nebraska's original area code, 402, which now serves Omaha, Lincoln, and several 'nearby' communities such as Hastings, Norfolk, and Valentine.
This time it's really gonna happen, and conditioning of the Teeming Millions for the impending transition is scheduled to begin Real Soon Now.
The Powers That Be decided some time ago that it is For Our Own Good that 531 should be overlaid on 402 rather than split geographically, thus saving half of us the trauma of remembering a new area code.
This will 'require' (explaining why this is really not the case will be an exercise for the student) that local calls within the 402 area must be dialed using ten digits: the area code, the prefix, and the line number. (10 - Count 'Em - 10 NPA-NXX-XXXX)
To phase in the new area code, 'permissive' dialing, which means that you are allowed to dial with ten digits if you really insist, will begin next month in June. Mandatory 10 digit dialing will begin in February, 2011, clearing the way for NPA 531 deployment in March.
Fortunately, one vestige of sanity remains. The Powers That Be have decided that we will not be required to dial '1' to prefix all calls, keeping with the notion (sort of) that '1 means toll.'
The explosion in growth of cellular phones in the 1990s brought this on, and even though it was put off a number of times, it looks like we're now stuck with it.
This was not the first time, however, that AC 402 was broken up.
What we know as Area Codes, actually Numbering Plan Areas (NPAs), were assigned in the 1940s as Ma Bell migrated from manual long-distance service to operator-assisted machine-switched long-distance service, facilitated by the barely-pre-war XBT (Crossbar Tandem) and the post-war #4 Toll Crossbar switch.
Nebraska was originally assigned NPA 402, serving all of Nebraska at the time. Many states, some far more populous than Nebraska was back then, were served by a single area code. In those days, true NPA-NNX-XXXX compliant phone numbers were far from universal. Many larger cities still used 6-digit 2-4 numbering plans. Omaha had such a plan until September 10, 1960. Council Bluffs had a combined 4-5 digit plan, as did many other communities with two or three COs.
As communities adopted the then NPA-NNX-XXXX standard (NPA-NXX was yet to come) in the 1950s, a necessary prerequisite for inbound Direct Distance Dialing, available prefixes were quickly exhausted and several area code 'splits' occurred in the early-mid 1950s. A severely gerrymandered line was drawn arbitrarily across Nebraska, leaving communities such as Rulo, in the southeast corner and Valentine, in northwest Nebraska, as well as Omaha and Lincoln in 402, with everything else in 308.
The phase-in of NXX prefixes in the late 1960s delayed several area code splits, and the sharing of NXXs among providers held things off even further, but countless splits and overlays occurred in the 1990s and 2000s, and we will be one of them soon.
Aren't we excited ??
Oh, one last thing. Let's be sure to notice how our local Talking Heads screw up the details of this as the date approaches. Ted Brockman, are you listening in? ;-)