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11 Digit Dialing Comes Home to New York 706

Traicovn writes "The NY Times (free registration, yadda yadda) is carrying an article about 11 digit dialing coming to the city of New York for all phone calls, including inner city calls. Yes, that means even to dial across the street you will have to dial 1-xxx-xxx-xxxx. Eventually as the phone number system fills up because of more people having cellphones/pager/fax and a home/office phone line we may see this happening in more cities across the nation or the NANPA may have to intervene by making phone numbers longer in general."
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11 Digit Dialing Comes Home to New York

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  • Better Idea (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Why not just give every phone an IP adress?
    • Re:Better Idea (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mirko ( 198274 )
      Maybe because IPv6 has not yet gone mainstream ?
      I don't think that 2^32 different addresses could be enough.
      • Re:Better Idea (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Jugalator ( 259273 ) on Tuesday January 21, 2003 @10:02AM (#5126325) Journal
        Yes, using IPv6 where the phones are of course connected to a DNS as well is an interesting thought... An international standard for how to "build" these "dial addresses" would be useful as well. They could reuse country codes too. My phone number could be something like:


        "pitea" is the city. "bd" is for Norrbotten, the equivalent of a state in the USA. "se" is Sweden.

        Quite short for being international too and you'd just need to add a number when necessary (i.e. not restricted to a special format of, say, 9 digits).

        But there might be some "funny" moments when someone hack the DNS to redirect a "phone address" to a pr0n number, redir CowboyNeal's number to Hilary Rosen, etc. :-(

        Or if a DNS with its backups get an error and you have to phone using IPv6 format to get to the right place: 3ffe:8114:2000:240::1 ... eww
    • Uh, because it would be bloody annoying to have to tap out a 38-digit number (IPv6 has 10^38 possible combinations, IPv4 doesn't have the capacity to be used for telephony) everytime you wanted to reach someone?

      • by grub ( 11606 )

        Use Telephony-DNS!

        "Phone, dial Universe.Milky-Way.Earth.Canada.Ontario.Toronto.Ma in-Street.2871.apartment-832.Smith.Robert.Henry" That's much easier than having to remember 11 digits!
      • Re:Better Idea (Score:5, Insightful)

        by forgoil ( 104808 ) on Tuesday January 21, 2003 @10:05AM (#5126347) Homepage
        The only solution to that is to hide the number. Using a DNS might not be the best way though (as someone suggested), as the would only mean we need to remember even more oddities.

        So how do we remember people's emails? Using automatic address books. How do I remember someones mobile phone number? I don't write them down, and I can't even recall my own number from memory. Again address books.

        So the answer is that we will get even more advanced address books that hide away the IP (or whatever ID might be used) simply because it is too hard to remember those numbers. Most phones have these already and it gets easier and easier to exchange mobile phone numbers.

        And to make it even easier, I guess it would be easier and easier to redirect calls. For example, I am done with work and am on my way home. My bluetooth in my mobile phone no longer has any connection to the phone at work, so it automatically changes to mobile phone first. When I get home my home phone says hi to my mobile phone, and once again it automatically redirects me. And when someone calls me they automatically get redirected to where I am, and they only need to keep one single entry on me. Simple and easy.

        All the technology is there (more or less) already, it all needs to be integrated. And if you are wondering what M$ might be up to, I bet this is something like it (and with emails as well). Just a guess;)
      • Re:Better Idea (Score:3, Insightful)

        by sql*kitten ( 1359 )
        Uh, because it would be bloody annoying to have to tap out a 38-digit number (IPv6 has 10^38 possible combinations, IPv4 doesn't have the capacity to be used for telephony) everytime you wanted to reach someone?

        I don't think this is a problem. Most of my calls I make from my Nokia and I have all the numbers I use in there, like "Bobby (Home)" or "John {Work)". And numbers usually get into the phone from another electronic device anyway, IR link from another Nokia, vcard via SMS or however. It won't be too long before the idea of phone numbers is as obsolete as keying an IP address (yes I know Slashbots probably use IP addresses every day, but the typical user has no idea that there even is such a thing). When was the last time you emailed someone as
        • Re:Better Idea (Score:3, Insightful)

          by kryonD ( 163018 )
          That's all well and good until you break your phone and realize that the only numbers you know are 911 and POSSIBLY your home number. I live in Japan where EVERYONE has a cell phone and they show the same dependancy. My cell phone got dropped in water once and I damned near had a heart attack freaking out over the possibility of losing so many phone numbers and email addresses. Fortunately, my new phone has a SONY 8MB memory stick which I back everything up to periodically. (I did recover the stuff from my old phone...Docomo phones are damned near indestructable)

          Also, I type out full email addresses just about everytime I send an email to friends off of my work's Outlook Web Access. Maybe there's a better way, but it's not that hard to remember an old fashioned email address.
    • ...if you have a net connection. maybe VoIP will replace everything one day, one which I would like to have now actually. Also it would be nice for users to put up a block on their firewall to screen out people such as telemarketers.
    • Re:Better Idea (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Gudlyf ( 544445 )
      I was actually wondering why they didn't just start new area codes in states just for pagers and cell phones. That would've saved everyone a LOT of headaches.
      • Re:Better Idea (Score:3, Informative)

        by Gordonjcp ( 186804 )
        This is what they do in the UK. Numbers start 00 for international (which is standard), 01 and 02 for national numbers and 07 for mobile devices like pagers (there's only about 30 or so in use now, but some people won't give them up) and mobile phones.

        All the different mobile phone companies are then assigned number ranges within the 07 group, like Orange is 078 and 079, kind of thing.
  • by Big Mark ( 575945 ) on Tuesday January 21, 2003 @09:26AM (#5126068)
    No, first you dial the country code. Yes, and then the area code. Now the city code... and now the local extension...


    Fool! You dialled to KFC, not home!

    Stupid alien.
  • by porkchop_d_clown ( 39923 ) <> on Tuesday January 21, 2003 @09:27AM (#5126070) Homepage
    Start supporting number-sharing? I have 3 phone lines, but only one of them is ever used to receive calls....
    • Trunk Hunting (Score:5, Interesting)

      by nuxx ( 10153 ) on Tuesday January 21, 2003 @09:33AM (#5126120) Homepage
      Easy solution... Just call up your phone company and tell them you want trunk hunting set up across the three lines that you have. In my experience this hasn't cost any extra, and it'll cause one number to roll over to the next phones if the first is busy.

      Is this what you're looking to do? It works well and doesn't cost anything.
      • Re:Trunk Hunting (Score:2, Interesting)

        Some phone companies recognize this as "Call Forwarding 2".

        Keep at them until they admit it exists.

        Worked great for rolling over my landline to my cell phone (and thus voice mail). Atleast until I dropped my landline and say buh-bye to the bastards!
      • Re:Trunk Hunting (Score:3, Interesting)

        by jackb_guppy ( 204733 )
        This does not fix the issue.

        Why does a person need three numbers? Why does a business need 200?

        Yes direct dail is cute, but unnessary. Most places only list the master number any way. Even on caller id, so if I place a redail I get the master number, so why have direct lines? Even for those few that a direct number can help... why give it to all?

        This is same agruement with public and private IPs. Why does company that bought a T1 get a class C, too?

        Finally - I have lived now in both 10 and 11 digit dail areas. (Orlando, FL and Northwestern IL) - and to say one thing -- it sucks. The big problem is that you are unable to tell when you make a long distance call until the bill comes at the end of month. The papers in this area report that 11 diigit will be fore every one. Becuasr they want to assign you a number life - that follws you around.

        So in the future what is phone number... look to the SS.
        • Re:Trunk Hunting (Score:5, Insightful)

          by swb ( 14022 ) on Tuesday January 21, 2003 @10:46AM (#5126685)
          Yes direct dail is cute, but unnessary. Most places only list the master number any way. Even on caller id, so if I place a redail I get the master number, so why have direct lines? Even for those few that a direct number can help... why give it to all?

          Businesses with updated phone systems and ISDN PRI can deliver desktop calling party info to outside lines as well as internally. Many places (like us) haven't made that upgrade yet and still rely on T1 trunking which doesn't have that capability -- on our system you get just the trunk number.

          The advantage to direct inward dial is huge. For a company of 500 people, you'd need 5 people to handle incoming call routing (4 operators and a supervisor), that's easily $200k in pay & bennies alone compared to under $5k for DID capable trunks.

          You *could* have a voicemail system answer the calls and do some lame menu/directory system, but many businesses and customers can't or won't tolerate that, they want a person or an individual voicemailbox to answer it.
        • Re:Trunk Hunting (Score:5, Informative)

          by quantum bit ( 225091 ) on Tuesday January 21, 2003 @10:46AM (#5126689) Journal
          Why does a person need three numbers? Why does a business need 200?

          They don't. Pretty much any business with 200 or more phone lines will use PRIs. A PRI is a T1 line (24 channels) to the phone company. So your business would have 9 PRIs coming in, for a total of 216 channels. A PRI channel allows for an outgoing call, but it does NOT have its own phone number. The way it works is that the business buys a block of DID numbers, however many they need, and those get routed over the PRI. An incoming call to one of those numbers uses whatever channel is available and sends a signal to your PBX identifying which number was dialed. This is much more efficient and cost effective than the single line / phone number model.

          So no businness in their right mind would have 200 individual phone lines dropped in a single location. It's just inefficient and a management nightmare.
          • Re:Trunk Hunting (Score:4, Insightful)

            by Havokmon ( 89874 ) <rick.havokmon@com> on Tuesday January 21, 2003 @12:37PM (#5127436) Homepage Journal
            They don't. Pretty much any business with 200 or more phone lines will use PRIs. A PRI is a T1 line (24 channels) to the phone company. So your business would have 9 PRIs coming in, for a total of 216 channels.

            Umm no. They'll have a single PRI (specifically 23 B channels and 1 D - so 9 PRI's would actually only allow 207 simultanious incoming and outgoing calls - but I digress), and 200 numbers. The numbers are, hopefully, one nice large bank, and when the PBX receives a call for 555-1212, it'll be smart enough to see 'oh 1212 is ours, that goes to ext 1212'. At least that's the easy way to do it ;) When you move up to T1's, you'll route to extensions via DNIS digits. The easy way to do that is also by the last 4 digits (but it sucks when you get an 800# that happens to have the same last 4 as another 800 or an internal extension - but again I digress)

    • I have an IP phone at my office that we are testing with []. I give the IP phone # to everyone. You can then set up the phone so that it will forward or rollover certain numbers. For instance, I have list of vendors that call to sell me stuff all the time. When they call the office phone, if I don't pick up, they get routed to voicemail. If my Mom calls, though, the system sends her from my office phone, to my cell phone, and then to my home phone. If I don't pick up any of those she goes to voicemail. All the numbers and all the settings are available via the web as well and when I'm staying in a hotel I can temporarily add that number to the forwarding list.

      IP telephony is amazing. Having one number that's adjustable for different callers is fantastic. Broadvox is still testing but they'll have personal service within the year, I think.
  • Welcome to the club (Score:5, Interesting)

    by analog_line ( 465182 ) on Tuesday January 21, 2003 @09:27AM (#5126074)
    In Massachussetts, we've had 11-digit dialing required for at least a year. I'm suprised that New York is just getting to this point. There's a whole lot more phones in NYC than here.
    • Not only do we have 11 digit dialing, we have multiple area codes in MA that are the SAME AREA! Such as 508/774, 781/339. Somone with a new phone number accros the street from my parents (who have 508) could get a 774 number. (its not long distance).

      I'm in western MA right now, and there is only one area code out here, 413. From what I hear from the phone companies though, since Boston went so well converting us to 11 digits, (aside from the many complaints :P) Verizon is looking at converting most areas. After all, it is so hard for a telephone switch to detect that a number being dialed is 7 rather than 11 digits......
    • New York has not REQUIRED 11 digit dialing for dialing in your area code, but there are now five area codes in New York City, 212/646 overlap, 718/347 overlap, and 917 is a little up in the air right now but was originally for cell phones, pagers and faxes.

      646 has at least been planned for at least 8 years I would say, and now many people in Manhattan have 646 area codes for their home phone. 347 is also appearing in Brooklyn. 917 has been a national oddity for longer than I can remember. I would say 10 years minimum, probably longer.

      Thus you only need to 11 digit dial when you are dialing someone who does not have a number in YOUR area code.

      It seems really ridiculous to require 11 digit dialing in your own area code. Perhaps if we didn't USE area codes but had an entirely random string numbers 11 digit dialing as a requirement is obviously a necessity.
      • I wish it worked that way in eastern Mass. Almost every phone call I make is to my own ara code and I'm still stuck dialing 10 digits.

        I got used to it pretty quickly but I find myself forgetting to dial 1 before making a long-distance call.
    • Miscellaneous (Score:5, Insightful)

      by tommck ( 69750 ) on Tuesday January 21, 2003 @10:12AM (#5126406) Homepage
      1) Is it me or is everyone in this thread mathematically challenged? Philly doesn't have 11 digit dialing, neither does Massachusetts. They have 10 digit dialing, right?

      2) And, if you add the SAME number to the beginning of everything, that gives you nothing. Why would they do that?

      3) I used to work on phone switch software, and the only reason I can see is that they don't want to have to differentiate between a local (i.e. 10 digit) call and a long distance (i.e. 11 digit) call. This way, the switch can run less code. No need to wait before it starts routing the call. It can start routing as soon as you start typing numbers. This, and the use of reserved area codes (\d[0,1]\d) as exchanges, was the big motivator behind the 10 digit move.


      • Re:Miscellaneous (Score:3, Informative)

        by rtaylor ( 70602 )
        2) And, if you add the SAME number to the beginning of everything, that gives you nothing. Why would they do that?

        Actually it does give you something. It will allow you to use 0 or 1 as the second digit -- thus *buying* 2 billion more phone numbers.

        Of course, globally routing numbers (drop the concept of 'area code', and just make it 3 arbitrary numbers) would do more for the system.
      • The worst part in Boston is that you *must* use the initial 1 if you dial "long distance" and you *can not* use the 1 if you are dialing locally, or you'll get anyone of "that number can not be reached" errors. This is super confusing because there are instances where someone is across the street but has a different area code so you need the one, or there is someone who is far away, but has the same area code and you need the one, or someone is nearby with the same area code and you can not use the one.

        So confusing, I remember that I was calling a local Boston number that for weeks I thought was incorrect because I was dialing a 1 first and eventually I learned that it was because I was dialing the one that it didn't work.
  • by vought ( 160908 ) on Tuesday January 21, 2003 @09:28AM (#5126080)
    One-two-one-two-eight-six-seven-five-three-oh niyeeeeeiyne!
  • Why the '1' ?? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by blakespot ( 213991 ) on Tuesday January 21, 2003 @09:28AM (#5126081) Homepage
    We have had to use 10-digit dialing here in the DC area (I am in Alexandria, VA in NoVA) for a while now and I don't see what adding a 1 is going to do...esp. if you add it to each call.

    So 10-digit == 11-digit dialing, basically, no?


    • The 1 is the country code. I believe it's used for calls to the US and Canada.
    • Re:Why the '1' ?? (Score:4, Informative)

      by b1t r0t ( 216468 ) on Tuesday January 21, 2003 @09:40AM (#5126168)
      The difference is that with 10-digit dialing, all the local area codes are reserved and not used as exchange codes (the second three of the ten digits) in those area codes. Then it looks at the first three numbers you dial, and if they are not one of the local area codes, it does 7-digit dialing.

      Why 11 vs 10 digits? I can only think of two reasons. Either there are enough area codes in the local area that they don't want to waste the exchange codes, or they need a new area code and don't want to force the people who have it as their exchange to change their 7-digit number.

      And now that I've gone all through this, the sometimes-10, sometimes-7 digit dialing that IIRC is used in the Dallas Metroplex area vs always-10 digits still doesn't make a case for needing the 1 in front. In fact, without the 1, 7-digit dialing could still be assumed. So I'm still just as confused as you are.

      • Re:Why the '1' ?? (Score:2, Informative)

        by smackdaddy ( 4761 )
        And now that I've gone all through this, the sometimes-10, sometimes-7 digit dialing that IIRC is used in the Dallas Metroplex area vs always-10 digits still doesn't make a case for needing the 1 in front. In fact, without the 1, 7-digit dialing could still be assumed. So I'm still just as confused as you are.

        The Dallas Metroplex has 10 digit dialing. There are 3 area codes (214, 972, 469). So you always have to dial 10 digits. I don't see what 11 digits buys new york over 10 though, cause if the first digit is always 1 then effectively you have gained nothing over just adding another area code.
    • Re:Why the '1' ?? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by jdreed1024 ( 443938 ) on Tuesday January 21, 2003 @09:42AM (#5126183)
      We have had to use 10-digit dialing here in the DC area (I am in Alexandria, VA in NoVA) for a while now and I don't see what adding a 1 is going to do...esp. if you add it to each call.

      Yeah, same in Boston. We recently got some new area codes added to our local calling area, so we have to dial 10 digits instead of the previous 7. We certainly don't have to dial the '1'.

      By contrast, however, in Rhode Island (401 for the whole state), when New England Telephone became NYNEX (yes, it was always a subsidiary, but when they actually changed the name), we had to dial '1' + 7 digits if we were calling outside our local calling area, but within 401. Then they became Bell Atlantic, and we had to dial 1+401+7 digits outside the local calling area (but within 401). Then they became verizon, and now you just dial 7 digits anywhere within 401, and it's up to you to remember whether it's a local call or a toll call.

      So, I think basically the "1" is at the whim of the phone companies, and it is no longer the reserved digit signifying "long distance". Unless of course the NYT got it wrong. Someone who works for the phone companies (or has hacked into their switches - Hi Kevin!) should explain to us why New Yorkers need to dial a 1 when they have overlay codes, and those of us elsewhere (Boston, DC) don't.

      • Just outside of Boston (508) we have ten-digit dialing but eleven if it's toll. When someone gives me their 508 number, I don't know whether I should add a 1 or not. You can tell based on location, but what is the "location" of a cell phone? Guess incorrectly, and I get that horrid loud triple-tone and have to try the other. It pisses me off.
      • Marge: They must have must have made a mistake. We'll just go down to the phone company and straighten it out.

        Homer: Which phone company?! There are hundreds of them! They all keep changing their names..

        Marge: I think it's Quamquack.

        Bart: No, I think it's Niagular.

        Marge: No, last week they became Verdiquar.

    • So 10-digit == 11-digit dialing, basically, no?

      When I was 7 or so and my small home town went from 4 digits to 5 digits by adding a 5 in front of every number, I asked my school teacher the same question. She didn't understand my question.

      Later on, it turned out that by the time all the 5xxxx numbers were actually used up, they started introducing 6xxxx numbers. (I could figure out that would be possible, but she kept insisting every new number would have a 5 as welll...)

      Anyway, I hope NYC isn't expecting to reach 10 billion phones soon? (no, I didn't read the article)

    • In addition to the other posts, there's one more basic reason: dialing out of your area code in NYC has always required the 1. The 1 was originally required so the system explicitly knew the next 3 digits were the US area code. Since I was a kid growing up in NYC it always had multiple area codes, first just 212 for Manhattan and 718 for the other 4 boroughs. So everyone is used to dialing either 7 or 11 digits. I've never in my life dialed 10 and neither has anyone else here, or their PBXs or faxes or anything else that can dial. With everyone here used to 11 digits and all of our electronics trained appropriately, it makes sense to stick with 11 instead of moving everyone to 10.

      Of course I still don't get why the system can't work the way it does now. If I don't dial a 1 then why can't it assume I'm dialing to another number within my own area code? The phone companies are desparately hanging on to their legacy systems and only a few startups have tried going all digital.
  • Why not 10 digits? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cleduc ( 146288 ) on Tuesday January 21, 2003 @09:29AM (#5126086)
    I don't understand why they require the 1. Here in Atlanta (the world's largest free calling area, harbinger of things to come) we just dial the area code (no 1) for numbers in the local calling area (codes 404, 470, 678, 770). It makes it simpler to distinguish when you're dialing long distance and when you're dialing local -- not that we'll be worried about that for much longer I guess.

    Of course, maybe they just want to specify the United States & Canada with every call. Or maybe they're preparing to secede...
  • I doubt it (Score:3, Insightful)

    by PhysicsGenius ( 565228 ) <physics_seeker@yahoo. c o m> on Tuesday January 21, 2003 @09:29AM (#5126088)
    This is the darkness before the don on the "no more phone numbers" front. Already people are using VoIP to communicate wireless via the Internet and every person who does that is another phone number that doesn't need to be allocated. When we all switch to IPv6 [] (I've done it, have you?) worrying about phone numbers will become as quaint as wondering how all the residents of New York will feed their horses in the year 2000.
    • Re:I doubt it (Score:2, Informative)

      by sporty ( 27564 )
      Don't doubt too soon. Over the past 15 years, the bronx was added to 718 to make more room for manhattan. Now we add 917 for cell phones. Then the deregulate the 917 area code to use for home use. THEN they add 347 for brooklyn and queens. 646 for manhattan. Parts of Long Island has added 631 (is it 631?) I believe.

      Over the past 15 years, they have made room 5 or 6 times. For NY especially, moving to 11 digit will stop us from constantly adding more and more area codes. For Chilicothe IL, one area code prolly is enough for it and its other counties :)
  • by LordYUK ( 552359 ) <> on Tuesday January 21, 2003 @09:30AM (#5126093)
    ... and except for the week it happened (and listening to the "you must dial the area code" message umpteen times because your fingers arent trained to dial the extra 3 digits to call down the street), it isnt so bad. In fact, down south they have a very large local calling area, which more than makes up for having to dial extra digits. I dont know about New Yorks call pricings, but who cares if you have to dial a "1" before every call now, as long as its not considered a toll call.
    • Large local calling area is an understatement!
      all of middle Georgia (which is essentially the metro-Atlanta area) is free along with parts of north Georgia. Any call to 770, 678 and 404 is a free call from within those area codes and parts of 706 constitute a local call from within 770, 678 and 404. We looooooove our phone system here. :-) I'm 19, and in over 19 years my family has had 2 issues with the telephone line, both were with a second line we had a couple years ago (prior to getting DSL), occurred in the same day, and were fixed on that same day. Between our great local calling area, fair prices (for home lines are a little to pricey I think but that's me...) and the service I've personally experienced, I can't find anything to complain about Bellsouth. However, the place I've worked for has switched among several providers for our business lines and we've had issue after issue with all of them. Gotta love Atlanta and telecom!
  • Why do they have to dial 1? In Toronto and Vancouver (Canada) they have had their area codes overlaid for quite some time and they only have to dial 10 digits.
  • *yawn* (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 21, 2003 @09:30AM (#5126095)
    get a cellphone and you don't need to think about numbers.

    just search a name from the list and press dial

  • Nothing New (Score:2, Informative)

    by Zephy ( 539060 )
    Here in the UK, major cities have had to change their numbers twice in recent years to accomodate number growth. It's not such a big deal, though. At present london numbers are 11 digits long 020x xxx xxxx , though the 020 can be omitted when dialling locally. Shouldn't the surprise be that this hasn't happened sooner?
  • all my life i've associated the 212 area code with new york. couldn't they have done NAT with phone numbers so we could all still use 212 ;) .
  • From the article it's not clear, but here in eastern PA we too must dial area codes, but the "1" before the number is often not required.

    Thus it's likely that many folks in NY city will only have to dial 10 digits, not 11 as suggested by the article.
  • In Europe the cell numbers are separate from home lines, so you know when you are calling a cell or not.

    Here in America all the numbers are mixed so when you dial a number you can't be that sure it's a cell. This has caused the numbers to fill up FAST.

    • Yeah, and in Hungary (but I think in most European countries) you can even tell the provider from the telephone number.

      06-20-xxx-xxxx PANNON
      06-30-xxx-xxxx WESTEL
      06-70-xxx-xxxx VODAFONE

      They are 11 digits also and it has the advantage that you can keep your phone bill low. If you want to reach someone and he has a fix and a mobile number you should try the fix first (it is cheaper). Or if you are a eg. a WESTEL subscriber then calling another WESTEL subscriber is cheaper than calling eg. a PANNON subscriper. So, it is advatageous to know what kind of number you call.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Here []

  • Now what they need is a more efficient way of passing these numbers to other people.
  • by worldthinker ( 536300 ) on Tuesday January 21, 2003 @09:35AM (#5126134)
    Based on anecdotal evidence, I beleive that the various phone companies are hording number exchanges. Here in Chicago, there are many prefixes that are not available in adjacent area codes. It goes along with the general take no prisoner's approach the various ILEC's take in dealing with competition.
  • 10 digit dialing is a good thing. What needs to happen is a nation wide push to get everyone to use 10 digit dialing for everything. You could even tie it in with the so-called War on Terrorism or something to get Joe Sixpack to jump on it. This will eliminate all the problems of needing a 1- for some areas, not for others, area code for some inter-LATA calls, not for others, etc. After all, most people are used to it from their cell phones, so how much of a switch would it really be?
  • by JSkills ( 69686 ) <jskills&goofball,com> on Tuesday January 21, 2003 @09:36AM (#5126141) Homepage Journal
    ... where Elaine gives some guy she meets her phone number with the new "646" area code. The guy's like "so how far away do you live?" and "so do I have to dial 1 first"? He eventually makes up an excuse to get away from her, just so he doesn't have to deal with the different area code issue.

    Ok, mod me down now, that was pretty off topic. Sorry.

  • Why so many digits? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by occamboy ( 583175 ) on Tuesday January 21, 2003 @09:37AM (#5126143)
    Somebody help me get a clue: At first glance, it would seem that a seven digit number would be good for almost 10 million phone numbers, while adding three more digits would take us up to more than one phone number per inhabitant of our planet.

    Why so many digits? Why are we running out of phone numbers?

    And, while we're at it, why not assign each individual a phone number that they keep for life, no matter where they move, like a domain name? I'd imagine that modern telco equipment could support this by now.
    • That sounds like a good idea, but there's a problem with it. How many phone lines do you have for yourself? A cell phone, regular phone, maybe fax machine, and who knows what else. So you might need 5 different phone numbers. How do you account for that?

      Also, remember that its not only people who need phone numbers. I forget the exact number of people in NYC, but let's say its 10 million - enough to fill one area code. But remember the number of businesses in NYC, and the number of people who have cell phones, fax machines, etc... Also remember that there are only 5 or 6 area codes in NYC (I forget how many exactly), so that's only good for 50-60 million numbers. On top of all their numbers, they still need room for future expansion, because so far, people just keep getting more numbers. So that's why we need more and more numbers.
    • by Kamel Jockey ( 409856 ) on Tuesday January 21, 2003 @09:48AM (#5126232) Homepage

      Why are we running out of phone numbers?

      I am not sure how they do things in New York, but down here in Pennsylvania, any time a competing local exchange carrier or a cell phone carrier wants to provide service, they must buy the numbers from Verizon in 10000-sized blocks (1 entire prefix), even if they end up selling only 1 to 9999 lines. When they deregulated the phone system in this state, lots of companies bought up these blocks but never resold anything close to same amount to end-customers. The result (at least in Philadelphia) is that we now have 6 area codes for the city (215, 267 and 445) and suburban (610, 484 and 835) areas although there hasn't been a net gain in population in this region (mostly people moving out of the city and into the suburbs). I read somewhere that they are trying to reduce the block sizes down to 1000 numbers, but I am not sure how this is progressing.

    • Some businesses buy blocks of numbers in case of expansion. Take cellular carriers, for example. Some people want different home/cell numbers. Let's face it, we could just dial the Soc Sec No. if we wanted a number to keep for life, but I don't think that ultimate accountability/accessibility is really what people are after when they purchase a phone.
    • First point: the inefficiencies of numbering schemes makes a lot of wastage. Your area code might cover a densely populated area (e.g. NY) or it may cover 1000 people in a large area of desert. The former requires a large number space (e.g. 1 million), meaning the latter has a large wastage. There's probably other issues, for example if you require 150 area codes, you allocate 3 digits, effectively wasting 85% of the namespace. Added together, you miss a lot.

      You could make this more efficient, but it becomes much more difficult to manage, both in terms of human understanding and the complexity of exchanges.

      As for "phone number for life", what happens when you move areas? That number has to be programmed into various exchanges across the country, causing massive complexity. Telco equipment could support it, but it probably requires a complete refit of all systems.

    • Because they are not allocated individually nor sequentially. Stupidly, the telcos assign them in blocks. Even though 212-123-xxxx has not given out all of its 1000 numbers, they are all reserved for future use. So even if there are only 150 in use, the rest are out of circulation.
      And each 3 digit exchange is tied to a particular location. Just as each 3 digit area code is tied to a larger location.

      And we are running out, because there is >1 number per person. Work 1 & 2, home, cell, modem, fax, second ring....
    • And, while we're at it, why not assign each individual a phone number that they keep for life, no matter where they move, like a domain name? I'd imagine that modern telco equipment could support this by now.

      Due to spam, I have a high turn over rate on multiple email address. I like changing phone numbers. Hey, why don't you just use your SSN for a phone number.

      I would like my temporary numbers to be bound to me and not geography.

    • One big factor is the way numbers are allocated. For historical reasons, numbers are grouped: every number with an XYZ prefex gets routed to the XYZ exchange. Once you placed an exchange somewhere, it had 10^5 phone numbers available, whether it needed them or not. I think you'll still find a lot of prefixes that haven't been filled yet.

      A similar thing happens when netblocks are given to companies. If a company needs 1500 phone lines, 10,000 numbers are reserved (think about it as applying a decimal netmask).

      Now that phone exchanges are mostly digital (over here, the last analog exchange was phased out years ago, IDK about the US, though), it should be possible to free up those unused numbers.

      There are more reasons: at least over here, many numbers are 'locked away' in unused 'prepaid' SIM cards for cellphones. In the US, I expect that rivalry between phone companies will prevent them sharing their number pools.

    • by sg3000 ( 87992 ) <> on Tuesday January 21, 2003 @10:06AM (#5126360)
      > Why are we running out of phone numbers?

      It has to do with the fact that service providers are assigned blocks of numbers, rather than individual numbers for their subscribers. So imagine two service providers A and B. Maybe they both get a single 10,000 block of phone numbers. Imagine that A has 9,000 subscribers (and thus has used 90%) of their numbers, and B has 1,000 subscribers (and has used 10%). If A gains another 2,000 subscribers, they can't use B's number block. They have to apply to the FCC for another block of 10,000 numbers. In the meantime, B is has plenty of room. As a result, you run out of numbers, even though they're not all being used.

      Their is a concept called Number Pooling that means that if a service provider has a block of 1,000 numbers that they aren't using, they have to return that block of numbers to the "pool" for other service providers to use. Number Pooling is mandated in many areas under specific circumstances.

      The telecom industry is slowly getting away from the idea of number block routing. With Number Portability and Number Pooling, they're moving towards a system that improves on that. Number blocks are "tagged" as having a subscriber that no longer has service with the service provider that owns that block. Then the switch goes to a centralized database and determines where that subscriber is, and the call is routed accordingly.

      Number Portability exists in a limited extent today, so in many areas of the country when you move between service providers (but stay in the same service area), you can keep your phone number. So the situation is being alleviated, but New York is probably the biggest market in the country, and things are pretty strained there.

      > And, while we're at it, why not assign each
      > individual a phone number that they keep for
      > life, no matter where they move, like a domain
      > name?

      Telecom companies are working on this. A concept called ENUM allows subscribers to be assigned IP addresses that are abstracted from the ways the actual call is routed. This is mostly coming about because of VoIP, but it has merits with regular E.164 telephone numbers as well. The telecom industry moves a little slower than the computer industry, so expect to see something like this within 3-5 years. Happy waiting!
    • by netringer ( 319831 ) <maaddr-slashdot@ ... m minus language> on Tuesday January 21, 2003 @11:21AM (#5126919) Journal
      Why so many digits? Why are we running out of phone numbers?
      They're not running out of numbers because the numbers are being used. They're running out of numbers because blocks of numbers are being reserved.

      Any shmoe can print up business cards and claim to be a pager company, a wirelesss com[any or a CLEC. Then he orders some phone numbers. Thanks to rules that the industry doesn't want to change, the minimum block of numbers that can be allocated is 10,000 numbers. The are a lot of blocks of 10,000 phone numbers where 100 or 1 or none are actually being used. It doesn't take many schomes doing this before "we're running out of numbers."

      In Illinois the consumer groups wanted to lower the block size but they were denied.

      BTW, the management of numbers is handled by a independent company hired for the purpose. The local ILEC has no control over it.
      And, while we're at it, why not assign each individual a phone number that they keep for life, no matter where they move, like a domain name? I'd imagine that modern telco equipment could support this by now.
      Number portability is supposed to happen. In most states, you can keep your phone number when you change your local phone company.
    • by mpe ( 36238 )
      Somebody help me get a clue: At first glance, it would seem that a seven digit number would be good for almost 10 million phone numbers,

      You'd start with 10 million, then knock off anything starting with the digit one or zero, which is minus 2 million. Then you also have to knock off anything starting 555 or 911, which is another 20,000. Thus you actually will get at best 7,980,000. Plenty of cities which require rather more telephone numbers than that.
      There is another twist telephone numbers are assigned in blocks of 10,000 (the last 4 digits). This made sense about a century ago where the 4 digits actually refered to a specific piece of hardware, but it's just been continued.
  • by rot26 ( 240034 ) on Tuesday January 21, 2003 @09:37AM (#5126145) Homepage Journal
    The worst part about 10-digit local calls is never being sure whether it's free or toll.

    Calling your neighbor across the street... probably not toll. Calling the local blockbuster... well, PROBABLY not. Calling a plumber you looked up in the phone book? No way to tell really, without committing to memory the HUGE tables of "local to" exchanges in the front of the phone book. (I used to develop automated calling systems and I've had to deal with this for years.)

    It turns your phone bill into a reverse lottery every month.
    • Unless you make hours of local calls every week, you might want to check if your telco has a plan where *all* calls are toll. This usually costs nine or ten bucks a month plus only pennies per call -- by far the cheapest plan for most people (assuming you have broadband and no teenage children).
    • The worst part about 10-digit local calls is never being sure whether it's free or toll.

      This is something that the wireless networks are doing right. They bill you based on how long you're on the system, not where the other end of the call is located.

      I don't even think about long distance charges anymore, because a 10-minute call across the country costs me the same as a 10-minute call across the street.
  • by GothChip ( 123005 ) on Tuesday January 21, 2003 @09:37AM (#5126150) Homepage
    Why is whenever the US catches up with the rest of the world in phone technology it is considered "news"?

    We've been using 11 digit number in the UK for years. A 5 digit area code and a 6 digit number. It's not exactly a hard concept to grasp.
  • When most phones these days have an address book built in.

    In the longer term it would seem sensible to use a telephony equivalent to DNS, so consumers wouldn't have to use a number at all.
  • Is there any possible way to give individuals as many unique identification numbers as needed for either phone lines or for IPs without having to revamp the system very few years? Eventually this 11-digit system won't be enough, and eventually IPv6, although less likely, won't be enough, right? So, is it mathematically possible to create a system with the structure necessary and still have infinite combinations?

    It just seems that this is an issue that could be avoided with a little foresight and one more major revamp.
  • Well, not exactly 11 digits -- 10 digits (you can drop the leading 1). Once you get used to it, it's not that bad... a lot of people made a big deal about it when it rolled out, but now I never hear any complaints.

    In fact, it looks weird when I'm someplace else that doesn't have 10 digit dialing (what's the area code???)

    It's better this way -- you either get everyone to use 10/11 digits, or you divide the existing area-codes up into more area codes, and have everyone re-print business cards, signs, advertisements, etc, etc, etc... that ends up causing more trouble than just adding a few extra digits.
  • Number portability (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Dr.Hair ( 6699 )
    So is NANPA still requiring each line provider to buy a block of numbers and assign their users out of that block?

    Are they blocking number portability? That is, can I take a Verizon number that I've had for years at my business and sign up with a dial tone competitor and keep the same number? (Yes, phone switches are smart enough to handle this and route a number anywhere on to any network.)

    With Michael Powell at the FCC as a sock puppet of the RBOCs, things like number portability that might promote dial tone competition get squashed. It would also reduce the need for new area codes because the numbers that we do have would get used more efficiently.

    But it is easier to get customers to carry the burden and expense of dialing extra digits (think of reprogramming speed dial numbers and fax numbers on machines). Then you can minimize competition and keep profits and campaign contributions maximized.
  • by freeweed ( 309734 ) on Tuesday January 21, 2003 @09:42AM (#5126184)
    Yeah, but I'm sure the folks in Olde Springfield get to keep the old 212 area code.
  • 11-Digit Local Dialing Starts in New York City on Feb. 1 By LYDIA POLGREEN

    our 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.

  • This is more important to the rest of the world since it has come to New York?

    Maryland has had 10 (and in some places 11) digit dialing for years because of sharing it's boarder with West Virginia, DC, Virginia, Delaware, and Pennsylvania.

    If New Yorker's would get out more, they would realize the world doesn't revolve around them.

    If the slashdot editor's got out more, they would realize that things *do* take place first outside of New York.

    Thanks you insensitive clods.
  • In Canton, Ohio we've had 10-digit dialing for 2-2.5 years now.
  • This really isn't a big deal. They have it in Denver where I live. 2 area codes. For local calls you dial the area code (no 1) and the number. Once you get used to it, it is no different than just dialing 7 digits.
  • I remember looking at an old phone book and noticed that the phone numbers were only five digits at the time. Obviously, they moved up to seven digits in order to handle the increasing amount of phones that people were starting to get.

    So why haven't we added an 8th digit to phone numbers yet? It would effectively give area codes 10 times more numbers and allow much more room for expansion than adding area code after area code.
  • the 847 area code for the north and northwest suburbs of chicago has had a 224 overlay for a while. My parents live in one of those tiny little towns where everybody still has the same prefix, so my dad just programmed speed dial button for 1-847-NNN and it's almost like being back in the good old days of 4 digit dialing. :)

    Then you could make area codes look like: for office buildings, or for larger areas.

    Of course, if they want to be proactive, perhaps we could just go to IPV6 directly (although that's alot of dialing!)
  • Adding the 1 doesn't make any sense. That must be an error. The 1 is simply a steering digit which signals the switch to the type of call. In this case, the 1 comes from the country code for the US and Canada. The one gets stripped off by the local access switch, and the call basically routes based on the 10 digit number. (There are some other digits stuffed in front of the number at that point, but that's not relevant here.) So adding the 1 doesn't create any new numbers. I don't think they want to create a "2" for example. That would end up created a second Country code for the United States.

    What they may have to do is make the area codes 4 digits or something like that.

    Incidentally, The country codes with only 1 digit are 1-US and Canada, and 2-Russia

  • Here []
  • by barnaclebarnes ( 85340 ) on Tuesday January 21, 2003 @09:53AM (#5126267) Homepage
    We carry Mobile phones which have this cool feature called an 'Address Book' where you can store all your friends numbers. And another feature called a 'Call List' where you can dial numbers that a) you have recently dialled or b) have recently called you.

    Seriously this accounts for 90% of the calls I make. Most calls involve pressing 'Yes' on my phone followed by the first letter of the persons name and then yes again.

    Another cool feature is directory assistance where they just SMS you the number and you dial straight from your phone (They can also connect you but that costs a lot more).

    Who needs a landline when you have all your numbers at your fingertips? /b
  • Who will be the first to 100? New York's phone numbers, or car license plates in Europe?
  • by tommck ( 69750 ) on Tuesday January 21, 2003 @10:19AM (#5126474) Homepage
    They want to add the "1" to the front so that they can add new area codes.
    Area codes USED to be: [2-9][0,1][1-9]
    Exchanges were: [2-9][2-9][0-9] ( i think - foggy memory )

    This made them easily recognizable to the switch.

    Recently, many areas of the US switched to 10 digit dialing.
    The new area codes are: [2-9][0-9][0-9] (many more)
    the new exchanges are: [0-9][0-9][0-9] (many more)

    NOW, they're setting up for MORE area codes so that we can have:
    1 - [0-9][0-9][0-9] - [0-9][0-9][0-9] - [0-9][0-9][0-9][0-9]

    I'm not doing the math for you , but that's a lot more numbers than previously allowed.


  • Wonderful. (Score:4, Funny)

    by DarkHelmet ( 120004 ) <mark.seventhcycle@net> on Tuesday January 21, 2003 @01:25PM (#5127759) Homepage
    Oh great. Soon I'll have to dial an IPv6 number just to pay for phone sex...
  • by Foresto ( 127767 ) on Tuesday January 21, 2003 @02:04PM (#5128001) Homepage
    I live in the 510 area code, near San Francisco, where Pacific Bell tried to force 11 digit dialing on us a while back. Their reasoning went something like this:

    1. We need more phone numbers.
    2. We'll add a new "overlay" area code, meaning that it covers the same geographical area as the existing area code.
    3. People won't remember to dial the new 1+areacode, because they're used to dialing only the last 7 digits when calling within their own geographical area.
    4. We should therefore force customers to dial 1+areacode with every call, even when it's technically unnecessary, to train them into using the extra digits.

    This, of course, was offensive to those of us in the area who consider ourselves less stupid than Pac Bell assumes. Many of us are perfectly capable of dialing the extra digits when necessary, even for local numbers, and were annoyed at the prospect of having arbitrary inconvenience forced onto us. As I remember it, enough of us complained that Pac Bell got the message, and changed their policy.

You will never amount to much. -- Munich Schoolmaster, to Albert Einstein, age 10