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North Dakota’s fight to keep the ‘701′

Published: Sep. 23, 2021 at 7:30 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - Due to the way phone numbers are distributed in the United States, North Dakota could run out of 701 area code numbers by 2026. But some government officials are trying to preserve the ‘701.’

If you’ve been on Facebook recently, you know North Dakotans are a diverse people: people can disagree about politics and television shows and religion. However, there is one thing that’s true for all North Dakotans: we’re all part of the ‘701.’

When Heather Haagenson goes to call her mom, she dials 701. Her friends? 701. Everyone in her life is connected by those three digits.

“It’s just a North Dakota thing. That’s what we’re known by. It’s the 701,” said Haagenson, a Bismarck resident.

For Haagenson and many others, the common area code is more than just a number. A change to that number would be a big deal.

“Since I’ve lived here my whole life I’ve known North Dakota as the 701. So, if it changed, it wouldn’t feel like home,” she said.

For Collin Kemmesat, 701 is a business matter: “It’s a big deal for us.”

In 2014, Kemmesat changed the name of his shop to 701 Cycle and Sport.

“We wanted to look for something that really brought us back home, kept us really local,” he said.

Kemmesat says if North Dakota were to be separated into multiple area codes, it would lose part of their identity.

“It would definitely hurt our business. It’s kind of like an identity thing, you know, 701, it’s what North Dakota identifies as,” he said.

Based on the way phone numbers are distributed right now, 701 numbers are set to run out by 2026. But North Dakota’s Public Service Commission is working to change that by asking for permission from the Federal Communications Commission to free up unused numbers.

“It’s really just a convenience issue. People in other states figure out and get used to ten-digit dialing. And I’m very confident that North Dakotans could too. But the fact of the matter is we shouldn’t need to,” said Randy Christmann, Public Service Commissioner.

The PSC is hopeful they’ll be successful in keeping the 701. It’s joining New Hampshire and Maine in petitioning the FCC to keep the single area code. If the PSC gets its way, they’ll free up millions of phone numbers and preserve the ‘701′ for what could be decades.

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