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Get Ready to Welcome the 346

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In some circles, area codes are those self-identifying numeric IDs that really let people know where you're from. Anyone repping that 713? But seriously, when was the last time you actually met someone who gave you a 713 number?

The Public Utility Commission said Houston would require a new area code because the existing ones, 281, 832 and our favorite, 713, will run out of phone-number sequences by September. The PUC said a new area code will kick in within a few weeks, beginning July 1. "The 346 area code will overlay existing area codes 713, 281 and 832 in Harris, Fort Bend, Waller, Austin, Montgomery, San Jacinto, Liberty, Chambers, Galveston and Brazoria counties," the PUC said in a statement.

The Houston Chronicle reports that the additional digits would help out 8 million new cell phone customers. The paper's report also recalled a time when switching area codes caused more trouble that maybe it was worth.

The original was 713. The second, 281, was added in 1997. At the time area codes were an indication of geography, and the addition of 281 threw the PUC into a reassigning nightmare.

About half the residents in the area had to change their phone numbers when Houstonians outside the loop (Beltway 8) were reassigned the second area code, 281. Locals "in the loop" got to keep their original area code, 713.

We hope this new change -- which isn't expected to create any major hassle, we're told, since we're still good on the old numbers (But try to get a 713 number with a new cell phone plan...almost impossible!) -- doesn't upset the ten people, plus our grandmother, who still have landlines.

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