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Area code 404 of the North American Numbering Plan (NANP) identifies a number plan area that covers Atlanta, Georgia and its closest suburbs, roughly the area encircled by Interstate 285. It is an enclave area code, completely surrounded by area code 770, which serves most of Atlanta's suburbs. Both 404 and 770 are overlaid by area codes 678 and 470.
Area code 404 was created in 1947 as one the original numbering plan areas in North America. It originally served the entire state of Georgia. On July 1, 1954, the southern portion of the state-everything from Macon southward-was split off as area code 912. Area code 404 served the northern half of the state, from the Tennessee and North Carolina borders as far south as Columbus and Augusta.
Despite Atlanta's growth in the 1970s and 1980s, 404 remained unchanged for 38 years. However, by the end of the 1980s, northern Georgia needed another area code. The number shortage was exacerbated by the fact that the original 404 territory was split between local access and transport areas that spilled into neighboring states. The Atlanta LATA covers most of the northern portion of the state, including Columbus, and extends for some distance into Alabama. The far northern part of the state is part of the Chattanooga, Tennessee LATA, while the Augusta LATA spills into South Carolina. As a result, numbers in Alabama's 205 (now in 334), Chattanooga's 615 (now in 423) and South Carolina's 803 were not available for use.
On May 3, 1992, nearly all of the old 404 territory outside of metro Atlanta was split off as area code 706. As originally drawn, 706 included several exurbs of Atlanta. However, BellSouth (now part of AT&T Inc.) returned them to 404 because of customer complaints. The 404/706 boundary was redrawn in a way that left Columbus and its surrounding area cut off from the rest of 706, making 706 one of the few area codes that are not contiguous. However, 404 was still close to exhaustion even after the creation of 706. The Georgia Public Service Commission had already planned to assign 770 to Atlanta's suburbs later in the decade. However, the decision to return the Atlanta exurbs to 404 forced the GPSC to shift nearly all of Atlanta's suburban ring to 770 on August 1, 1995, sooner than had been planned.
The 404/770 boundary roughly follows Interstate 285, popularly known as "the Perimeter." Generally, 404 is Atlanta itself and most suburbs inside the Perimeter (such as Decatur), while most of the metro area outside the Perimeter uses 770. The boundary was drawn in such a way that a number of areas are split between the two codes. For some time after the 770 split, 404 continued to be used for all cellphones in metro Atlanta.
The 1995 split was intended as a long-term solution. However, within two years both 404 and 770 were close to exhaustion due to Atlanta's explosive growth and the proliferation of cellphones and pagers. On January 1, 1998, area code 678 was introduced as an overlay area code for 404 and 770. Since then, ten-digit dialing has been mandatory throughout metro Atlanta. Because the Federal Communications Commission would not allow an area code to apply only to cellphones, mobile customers throughout the metro area were given the option of choosing numbers in the 404, 770 and 678 area codes when signing up for service.
Within only two years, it was apparent that a fourth area code was needed for metro Atlanta. On September 2, 2001, area code 470 was overlaid on top of the 404, 770, and 678 area codes. When telephone numbers in area code 678 are exhausted, 470-numbers will be assigned. The number was chosen by the Georgia Public Service Commission and approved by the NANPA, as were the previous splits and overlays for new area codes in the state. This has the effect of allocating 31.2 million numbers to a metropolitan area of 6.4 million people.
Telephone numbers for high-capacity lines, such as for contest lines for radio stations, are assigned with the central office prefix 741. When 770 was split, these numbers continued to work as both 404-741-xxxx and as 770-741-xxxx, so that only seven-digit dialing was necessary. This lasted until 678 came into use. There are also other prefixes which are not assigned to just one exchange, such as 499 and 528 used by Cobb County government and formerly SPSU. These were completely moved into 770.
In November 2013, the NANPA announced the exhaustion of available number blocks for area code 404, citing significant population growth in Atlanta.
The entire metro Atlanta region (404, 770, 678/470 and parts of 706/762) is a local calling area, one of the largest in the United States; no long-distance charges are applied for calls from one part of the region to the other.
|Georgia area codes: 229, 404, 470/678, 478, 706/762, 770, 912|
|West: 770/678||area code 404; entire region overlaid by 470/678'||East: 770/678|