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Hawaii News | Kokua Line

Kokua Line: Do all local calls have to add the 808 area code?

Question: My friend dials 808 to make local calls and says I should, too, but my calls go through fine without it. She’s been doing this for quite a while now. Is this only for cellphones? I have a home phone. I asked my daughter, but she didn’t know anything about it because she doesn’t live in Hawaii anymore.

Answer: You are referring to 10-digit dialing (area code plus telephone number), which will be required for all local calls in Hawaii on Oct. 24 but has been enabled since April 24, according to the Federal Communications Commission. The transition period — not the device type — explains the discrepancy; your friend was an early adopter of what will soon be universal practice in Hawaii, whether by cellphone, landline or another telecommunications device.

As for your daughter, perhaps she lives in a region that isn’t affected by the switch to 10-digit dialing. It involves 82 area codes in Guam and 35 U.S. states that use 988 as a telephone prefix, the FCC explains. The prefix, or first three digits of a seven­-digit phone number, also is known as a local exchange or central office code.

The 988 prefix is a factor because the FCC has designated 988 as the nationwide calling code for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. By July 16, people will be able to call 988 to reach mental health counselors, the FCC says, the way people now call 911 for police and fire emergencies.

That’s why regions using 988 as a prefix for regular telephone numbers must adjust by adding their area code for local calls. This will be true whether the number being called has a 988 prefix or not.

Note: To reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by phone, call 800-273-8255 (800-273-TALK). As mentioned, the 988 nationwide code is not yet operational.

Q: Regarding adding 808 for local calls, I updated all my cellphone contacts. Perhaps you can remind others?

A: Yes, and that’s not all that needs to be updated by Oct. 24. The FCC is reminding businesses that use PBX or VoIP phone systems to update or reprogram them for 10-digit dialing as necessary. Such reprogramming and testing has been possible since late April, as the first question indicated.

Many other functions also will be affected. Telecommunications companies have been spreading the word, including by posting updates on their websites. Here’s part of Hawaiian Telcom’s message:

“In addition to changing the way you dial local calls, all services, automatic dialing equipment and other types of equipment that are programmed to complete calls to 7-digit local numbers will need to be reprogrammed to complete calls to 808 + telephone number. Some examples are life safety systems or medical monitoring devices, PBXs, fax machines, Internet dial-up numbers, fire or burglar alarm and security systems or gates, speed dialers, mobile or other wireless phone contact lists, call forwarding settings, voicemail services and other similar functions. Be sure to check your website, personal and business stationery, advertising materials, personal and business checks, contact information, your personal or pet ID tags and other such items to ensure the area code is included.”

Q: Is the Safe Travels program a requirement for Hawaii residents traveling from the mainland, or will a fully vaccinated person with a properly issued CDC vaccination card (and other normally required identification) suffice?

A: Hawaii-bound commercial air passengers must create and manage a Safe Travels account, whether they are vaccinated or not. You can create one at travel.hawaii.gov.

Q: Bravo to the Honolulu City Council and Mayor Rick Blangiardi for making the environmentally sound and common-sense decision to dismantle the Haiku Stairs, which are a blight on the natural landscape as well as a nuisance to nearby residents and a liability to Oahu taxpayers. Will we see similarly decisive action regarding the Waikiki Natatorium? For far too long we in Hawaii have focused too much on the “built environment” at the expense of the natural world. Tear down the bleachers and pool, and let nature reclaim and replenish the beach. Save the memorial arch and move it inland. What does the mayor think?

A: We passed along your compliment and question to the mayor’s communications team but didn’t get a definitive answer back. Spokesman Tim Sakahara responded only that “we are currently working on plans for the future of the Natatorium.”


Write to Kokua Line at Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu 96813; call 529-4773; fax 529-4750; or email kokualine@staradvertiser.com.


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