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Tampa-Hillsborough to get a new area code. Say hello to the 656.

For nearly seven decades, 813 has been synonymous with Hillsborough County. But future growth demands a second area code.

The Public Service Commission has announced that Hillsborough County will receive a new area code to replace the soon-to-be depleted 813. The new area code is 656. [ PAUL ALEXANDER | Tampa Bay Times ]

Published May 8, 2020

Updated May 9, 2020

Long before Miami rapper Pitbull became “Mr. 305,” all of Florida was the 305. It was one of the nation’s first area codes created in 1947 and covered the entire state.

Florida kept growing, as Florida tends to do, and so a new area code was needed: 813.

It was the state’s second area code when it was created in 1953, covering Tampa Bay and all of west-central Florida. New area codes came online, but for 67 years the Tampa-Hillsborough area has been synonymous with 813.

But we’re running out of 813 numbers. That’s why it’s time for Tampa Bay to memorize three new digits: 656.

That is the new area code that will be issued across Hillsborough County in the coming years, the Public Service Commission announced on Thursday, replacing the nearly depleted supply of 813 phone numbers.

Those who already have an 813 area code can keep theirs. But 813 numbers are projected to run out by 2022. When that happens, new residents, businesses and extra phone lines will receive 656 phone numbers.

The Public Service Commission, which approved creating a new area code on March 31, said future growth requires bringing 656 online. There are about 1.5 million residents in Hillsborough, according to county data, making it Florida’s fourth-largest county.

That is projected to grow to 1.6 million in 2025 and 1.7 million by 2030.

There is a complication, however: Hillsborough residents will have to use 10-digit dialing to make local calls. So, those with 813 numbers would have to dial 656 and the other seven digits. And those with 656 numbers would have to do the same to call anyone with an 813 area code. Those would remain local calls, the state says, and will not incur additional charges.

Public Service Commission chair Gary Clark said in a statement that his agency sees no problems implementing 10-digit dialing.

“656 is easy to remember, and customers will also find the approved overlay plan easy to implement,” Clark said. “Existing telephone numbers will not change, and the six-month permissive dialing period will allow time for customers to adjust to 10-digit dialing. It is critical that businesses and individuals have access to new phone numbers when they need them, especially during the current emergency.”

If the prospect of one county having two area codes seems daunting, remember that Pasco County residents use three area codes: 727 (Holiday, New Port Richey, Port Richey and Hudson), 813 (Land O’ Lakes, Wesley Chapel and Zephyrhills) and 352 (Dade City).

The 813 area code used to cover much of west-central Florida. But new area codes were required to address the state’s never-ending growth.

In 1996, the 941 area code was created south of Hillsborough, for Manatee, Sarasota, and Charlotte counties. Two years later, 727 came online for those living in Pinellas or west Pasco (Oldsmar kept 813, though). Where did 352 come from? In 1965, the 904 area code was created from 305 territory. Then 352 was born in 1995 when it was split off from 904.

The new area code will require reprogramming communications devices to recognize 656 phone numbers, everything from cell phones to fax machines to alarms to voicemail services to PBX and VoIP systems.

For more information about the new 656 area code and other changes, residents can call the Public Service Commission’s customer assistance line at (800) 342-3552.

Correction: The 352 area code was created in 1995 from the area using 904. Callers will also only have to dial the area code to make calls. A previous version of this story was incorrect on these points.

written by J. Thalji, 05/2008

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