Idaho To Get Additional Area Code–986

After 68 years—that’s correct 68 years–with a single 208 area code, Idaho will have an additional telephone area code of 986.

The Idaho Public Utilities Commission decided Monday to assign the new number to all NEW phone services…that way existing numbers will not change, regardless of location. The hitch is we will all have to include the area code in all calls, even local.


State regulators today approved a 16-month plan for Idaho’s second area code to be implemented in late 2017. An hour after the Idaho Public Utilities Commission issued its order approving the plan, the agency that contracts with the federal government to administer the nation’s area code numbering plan, Neustar, issued Idaho’s second area code: 986.

The second area code will be issued only to new telephone numbers beginning in late 2017. Idaho is one of few states that still has one area code, “208” issued in 1947.

The commission adopted the unanimous recommendation of Idaho’s telecommunications providers and commission staff that the state implement a “geographic overlay,” which assigns the new area code statewide to new numbers. This option will ultimately require that all customers in Idaho dial 10 digits (area code, plus prefix, plus four-digit number) beginning in late 2017.

A second option was to implement a “geographic split,” which would have assigned the new area code to all numbers in one-half the state, requiring all customers assigned the new code to change their telephone numbers. This option would have retained seven-digit dialing for calls within the same area code. About 27 of 41 written comments the commission received favored the split option, but none of the comments addressed future trends that will eventually end seven-digit dialing.

“Neither option is ideal,” the commission said, but the overlay will not cause the same level of disruption and expense as a geographic split would have forced on the half of the state required to change its numbers. Furthermore, the commission said, developing technology “will eventually drive seven-digit dialing into obsolescence in the future.” Implementation of a geographic split may serve only to prolong seven-digit dialing for a short period, the commission said. “Thus, any future dialing change and relief planning will be eased by the implementation of 10-digit dialing now rather than later.”

Under the split, the commission said, businesses of all sizes would have experienced significant disruptions. “Any goodwill of business identification associated with existing phone numbers” would have been lost, the commission said, as businesses would be required to change advertising, letterhead, web pages and business cards. “This is no small expense nor a minor nuisance,” the commission said.

A commission staff investigation determined that every area code addition for the last eight years has been a geographic overlay, rather than a split. In 2008, the West Virginia Public Service Commission reversed its original decision when it found the geographic split created too much of an economic burden and that current technology generally “alleviates most of the problems (associated) with 10-digit dialing.” Commission staff noted that most telecommunications devices, even landline phones, have number storage capability that allows customers to dial entire numbers with the press of one or two buttons.

Neustar has been informing the state that a second area code will be needed since its original forecasted exhaust date of August 2001. In response, the commission implemented various numbers conservation plans that have been successful in delaying a second area code by at least 15 years. However, the proliferation of wireless telephones, new competitive telephone companies, paging and messaging services and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is contributing to the increase in demand for new numbers, making further delay impossible.

The plan adopted today by the commission initiates a 16-month transition and customer education process. Telecommunications providers will begin customer education in about six months and commission staff will conduct customer education workshops throughout the state beginning in spring of next year. A “permissive 7-digit and 10-digit dialing period,” will begin at about the end of 2016. This nine-month period will allow customers to begin 10-digit dialing even though seven-digit dialing will still work. Then, in the fourth quarter of 2017, mandatory 10-digit dialing begins.

The commission’s order and other documents related to this case are available on the commission’s Website. Click on “Open Cases” under the “Telecom” heading and scroll down to Case No. GNR-T-15-06. Petitions for reconsideration must be filed with the commission by no later than Nov. 23.

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. So, how is this going to go over with all those knuckle heads with ‘208’ tattooed on their bodies?

  2. Three more ways to fat-finger the dialing. I don’t use the phone that much and will adapt when the time comes.

  3. Cowpoke Twice Removed
    Nov 2, 2015, 5:04 pm

    Seems like splitting the state on the time zone boundary would make so much sense. Why have a system where neighbors could have different area codes?
    I find it amusing that cost to businesses is cited as a reason for the plan. By the time the area code is enacted what business wouldn’t have ordered new business cards and letterhead? Not many businesses will have the same advertising campaign going either. Web pages? Please!
    I can’t imagine this is going to go over well with the general public but the annoyance probably wouldn’t show up for a few years. At that point it would be too late. Of course now that most use cell phones to auto-dial maybe it doesn’t matter.

    EDITOR NOTE–It sounds logical to us…no one needs to change their number. Only new phones get the new area code.

  4. “About 27 of 41 written comments the commission received favored the split option, but none of the comments addressed future trends that will eventually end seven-digit dialing.” I guess I have to wonder why take public comment at all. I realize that it’s not a vote by the public, but I bet they were hoping that the comments would support the solution they were going to implement all along. For the record, I think they got it right.

  5. 10 digits?
    with the phone technology we have, with GPS and all, isn’t there some way to calculate the call as within the SAME area code unless otherwise noted.

    punch in 7; push call – hey it works!
    punch in 10- hey it works!

  6. I don’t recall using area codes until the late-’50s. Of course, some of that time we had one of those phones where you turned the crank to call the operator who actually connected the call for you (& as an important repository of community information, sometimes listened in to hear if you needed additional “assistance”). Now NSA does the listening.

    EDITOR NOTE–We double checked with the PUC before posting and they said the 1947 date is correct. It was assigned by the Feds (FCC), but it was used by operators because we didn’t have direct dialing until later.
    You old folks no doubt dialed “0” for long distance calls and 411 for local information. Long Distance info was 555-1212. I assume you also called the phone company to get the correct time of day.

  7. With phone-number portability and growth in wireless phones, “area” codes have less and less geographical relevance; folks take their area codes with them from state to state.

  8. We used to dial 5 digits in McCall and that was even on a party line! New phones and technology make dialing more numbers a mute point. I think they made the right choice.

  9. Reminds me of the Seinfeld episode (#175) where New York gets a new area code….. I can’t wait to flaunt my status as a 208 original to all the 986 newbies…presumably from California….

  10. Rod in SE Boise
    Nov 4, 2015, 1:53 pm


    Why not 208.5

  11. you old folks… yea, copper land lines when you could hear a loved one from across the world and they sound like they were in the room…

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