View Full Version : 11-Digit Local Dialing

January 21st, 2003, 02:29 AM

11-Digit Local Dialing Starts in New York City on Feb. 1

Your favorite Chinese-food delivery place may be just down the block, but starting Feb. 1 that kung pao shrimp will be four digits farther away.

That is when New Yorkers will have to start using an area code when calling a local telephone number, even if it is in the same area code. The days when a phone number was just a name and five digits say, Pennsylvania 6-5000 are now an even more distant memory. It will now take 11 digits, including the 1, to call across the street.

If callers do not dial the area code, they will hear a recorded message asking them to hang up and dial again, using the area code, said Daniel Diaz Zapata, a Verizon spokesman.

Verizon has taken out advertisements in newspapers, put up billboards and sent notices to customers in the hopes of helping people avoid the chaos that will undoubtedly ensue. With the number of devices attached to phone lines these days, this is no small task. "People will need to reprogram speed dialing lists, fax lists, dial-up modems and call-forwarding," Mr. Diaz Zapata said.

The reasons behind the change are complex. It is not simply the need for more phone numbers, as many people believe. Adding new area codes takes care of that problem, and New York City has received three new area codes since 1992 917 and 646 in Manhattan, and 347 in the rest of the city to help cope with the exploding demand for phone lines as customers have added pagers, fax machines, cellphones and modems.

Officials in less densely populated places simply split their area in two, with half the population keeping the old area code and the other half getting a new one. But in big cities, like New York and Boston, regulators use an overlay approach, which has meant that people who live next door to each other can and do have different area codes. City Hall, for example, uses the 212 area code. But since 9/11, which disrupted phone service in Lower Manhattan, the Police Department, across the street, has used the 646 area code.

In 1996, in order to simplify things and make it easier to foster competition in the local telephone service market, the Federal Communications Commission began requiring cities with overlaid area codes to use the area code when dialing locally.

New Yorkers did not take the requirement lying down. The New York Public Service Commission and the Consumer Federation of America asked for a waiver. The F.C.C. turned them down, but they appealed and were overruled in 2001.

January 22nd, 2003, 10:50 PM
I've been using the area code even for 212 to 212 for a couple years now no problem. What annoys me is now I have to go through all my saved #'s in my cellphone and add a "1". Why on earth is that necessary?

January 22nd, 2003, 11:58 PM
Tragically that what we have to cope with when we live in a city that combines 212, 718, and 646 into one zone.

January 23rd, 2003, 01:42 AM

The 10- or 11-Digit Local Call

AS a receptionist at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., Michelle Ratcliffe greets visitors from across the nation. But even visiting scientists can be baffled when it comes to making a simple phone call. They wish to call old friends living in the area but can't do it without help.

"It's a case of their old college roommate lives nearby and they want to call," Ms. Ratcliffe said. "But they bring only a seven-digit number."

Those time-honored seven digits are not enough. "I have to look up the area code for them," she said. It might be the familiar 301 or the newer 240, both of which cover the western part of the state.

Maryland led the way into dialing history - and dialing confusion - when it became the first place in North America to switch from 7-digit to 10-digit phone numbers, on June 1, 1997.

Since then, about a dozen more populous areas have made the move, including parts of Texas, Florida and Pennsylvania; the Chicago, Atlanta, Denver and Portland, Ore., areas; eastern Massachusetts; and all of New Jersey but its southernmost region.

The confusion is now spreading to New York. When the city changes to what the industry calls "1 plus" dialing on Feb. 1, "people will need to make a cognitive shift toward a whole updated numbering system," said James E. Katz, a professor of communication at Rutgers University and a leading authority on telephone use. "Just as every January they tear up checks because they write the old year, they will have to get the new system of phoning in place in their minds."

Unlike residents of Maryland and many other places, New York City residents will have to dial 11 digits, not 10, for their local calls in the same area code. (In most areas, the initial "1" signifies a toll call, but that is not the case in New York and some other areas.) Yet some people who study the telecommunications industry say that switching to 10- or 11-digit dialing is less problematic than it used to be, because of the proliferation of area codes in recent years.

"You have 20 or so area codes within 50 miles of Manhattan," said Eric B. Morson, co-administrator of AreaCode-Info.com, an independent site. "In many cases, the habit of 11-digit dialing has already been formed."

The proliferation of cellphones, with which almost every call requires an area code, has had an impact as well. And with modern phones there is also less need to remember any number, regardless of length: most phones now have an easy-to-use speed-dial function for numbers that are frequently called.

"Something like 80 percent of calls on cellphones are out of the speed-dial memory," said Linc Madison, a telephone consultant who maintains an area-code Web site called LincMad. "Stored numbers have taken over a lot of the burden of remembering or looking up phone numbers."

For some people, it's the seven-digit numbers that are confusing. Margaret Delcher, a 19-year-old sophomore at Fordham University, felt dialing confusion when she arrived on campus from her home in Maryland. She assumed that all New York numbers needed an area code, as they did in her home state.

"When I came here, you have no idea how much trouble I had trying to dial," she said. "If there was no area code, I would dial 646. That was the area code of my dorm room and the only area code I knew."

For Lauren Petzke, also 19, the transition to more digits is meaningless. Nearly all the calls she makes are programmed into her cellphone - with an area code. When she moved from Colorado to New York to attend acting school, she got a cellphone with a 917 area code. Most of her calls are to 212 codes. Some friends maintain cellphones with their out-of-state hometown codes. The idea of including extra digits doesn't even register. "I do it anyway," she said.

Expanded dialing is yet another result of concern that North America will run out of phone numbers, not merely because of soaring demand for phone lines but also the inefficient number allocation sowed by telephone deregulation.

The short-term solution was more area codes. So the industry imposed geographic area code "splits," like the debut of 718, which split off from 212 18 years ago.

More recently, the geographic plan was supplanted by an "overlay" plan, which layers new area codes on top of old ones.

In New York, the state's Public Service Commission tried to maintain seven-digit dialing within the same area code - so that dialing a call from 212 to 212 would not change, for example - but the Federal Communications Commission rejected the idea on fairness grounds. All numbers would be equally long to dial. Neither telephone companies handing out unfamiliar area codes nor the customers receiving them would be at a relative disadvantage.