#4: Reach out – waaay out – and touch someone

The Question

Dear Shaun,

One of the biggest shocks in moving to CT was the fact that it is not required to dial the area code to call a local friend. Unlike MA where all 10 numbers are needed to make any phone call, the CT 7 number system caught me a little off guard.

Is CT or MA the exception to the rule?
how many states require all 10 digits to be dialed for local connection?

Comment by mike d — 9/22/2004 @ 3:59 pm

The Answer

You’ve raised an interesting question. Let’s address it point by point.

First, why are some areas able to dial locally without dialing the area code? When the country was broken up into Areas, each Area got an Area Code. The Area is a geographic location by definition. Now what happens when 7 digits aren’t enough for all the phones (landlines, cell phones, etc) in a given geographic Area? The answer is an Overlay. An Overlay is when phone numbers in the same geographic area can have different Area Codes. This allows for more numbers per Area, but can be confusing (your neighbor could, in fact, have a different Area Code). Interestingly, when they created the Overlay in Massachusetts, they created new Areas first. In fact, before the Overlay, there were only 3 area codes in Massachusetts; 413, 508, and 617. Now they’ve thrown in others (such as 978 and 781). And the Overlays for Massachusetts? The 508 Area could have 774 as the area code, 617 gets 857, 781 gets 339, and 978 gets 351.

The Overlay that forces you to dial 10 digits instead of 7 to call local folks is the exception to the rule. The majority of the country doesn’t have this restriction. Only 19 states use Overlays, and usually only in small areas (like major cities; the Denver area of Colorado has an Overlay, but the rest of the state doesn’t). Massachusetts is one of the few states that has this requirement employed state-wide.

On a personal note, I find it weird that there is such a rational answer to this question. Also, was this the BIGGEST shock about moving to CT? Not the “Stuff is more expensive” or the new living situations? Or the “Running of the Bulls” that happens once a year in New Haven?


Shannon has successfully rebutted a portion of my answer! Everything she says is true. I was misinformed. See below:

I’d like to file a complaint on the basis of false information in regards to the 10 digit dialing. While the central and eastern portion of Massachusetts has to dial 10 digits, the western part does not. I find it very refreshing when I go home to the hills and only dial 7 digits.

Comment by Shannon — 9/29/2004 @ 7:37 pm

One thought on “#4: Reach out – waaay out – and touch someone

  • 9/29/2004 at 7:31 am

    I bow before your suprior grasp of the continental phone network.

    Bravo shaun mcQuaid.


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