C&P to reach out and give half of Md.new area code

November 17, 1990|By Leslie Cauley

Because of incorrect information supplied to The Sun, the Business section reported Saturday an incorrect launch time for a C&P Telephone Co. advertising campaign about the new 410 area code for Maryland being instituted next fall. The ad campaign will start next November.

Marylanders are going to find it harder to let their fingers do the walking after Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Co. splits the state into two area codes -- 301 and 410 -- starting next fall.

Baltimore and most of the state's eastern counties will start using the new 410 area code starting in November 1991, with the existing 301 area code continuing to be used for the western part of Maryland, said Frank Fulton, a spokesman for the Public Service Commission, which regulates C&P in Maryland.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

Under the two area-code system, Marylanders who live close to the east-west boundary and place local calls to or from one area code to another will have to dial 10 digits, Mr. Fulton said.

According to Mr. Fulton, C&P plans to start an ad campaign this month to notify customers of the impending changes, which won't be finalized until November 1992.

C&P has advised the commission that it plans to encourage people to start using the new area codes in November 1991, but give customers the option of using either the 301 or 410 area code when dialing into the 410 area through most of 1992.

After November 1992, however, customers who use the wrong area code will receive a recorded message indicating that they must dial the appropriate area code to complete the call, Mr. Fulton said.

C&P told the the commission it needed to split the state into two area codes because "it would soon be running out of numbers, and that was the only way to increase capacity,"Mr. Fulton said.

C&P is planning a press conference Monday to announce the landmark change, which will mark the first time in Maryland's history that residents have had to grapple with a two-area code system.

"This is one of the most visible changes in the last 20 years in terms of affecting day-to-day life," said Scott Rafferty, director of telecommunications for the PSC.

Mr. Rafferty noted that Maryland is one of a dwindling number of states today that has just one area code. Less than half of the states -- about 23 -- currently have a one area-code system, he said.

The reason: Demand for new phone numbers for faxes, cellular phones, beepers, pagers and other New Age communication services that gobble up numbers are outstripping the ability of phone companies to keep up.

The city of Los Angeles, for example, already has several area codes to accommodate the seemingly insatiable demand of customers for phone numbers. Likewise, New Jersey and Colorado were recently assigned additional area codes to keep up with demand for new numbers there.

In Maryland, the advent of such services as IdentaRing, a new service that assigns two numbers to a single phone line, is helping to push demand for phone numbers to the limit, Mr. Rafferty said.

Running short of numbers was the reason that C&P's sister company in the District of Columbia instituted a new dialing procedure for customers this fall.

The District's new system doesn't add a new area code, but it does require customers to dial 10-digits -- the area code and number -- when placing local calls between the District (area code 202) and surrounding neighborhoods in Maryland (area code 301) and Northern Virginia (area code 703).

Previously, customers could place local calls between the three jurisdictions without having to dial area codes.

Some Marylanders are going to have to deal with that same inconvenience after the new area code is added next year.

Mr. Rafferty likened it to residents in the Maryland portion of Chevy Chase who now have to dial 10 digits to place a local call to the District, and vice-versa. Chevy Chase is on the outskirts of Washington.

However, some things in Maryland won't change.

According to Mr. Rafferty, the addition of a second area code will not affect the cost or range of a local call. Even local calls that require 10 digits to complete will be billed at regular local rates, he said.

Splitting the state into two area codes is expected to have a tremendous impact on Maryland, which has more than 4 million residents.

Businesses will have to revise stationery and calling cards, area codes will have to be added to advertising -- Yellow Pages, print and broadcast -- and autodialing features on faxes, phones and burglar alarms, will have to be reprogrammed.

The bottom line, said Mr. Rafferty, is that Marylanders are in for some big changes.

"Changing your phone number is like changing your Social Security number," he said. "It's that big of a change."

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