410 confusion frustrates businesses Some phone systems can't read area code

November 21, 1991|By Leslie Cauley

Even the best-laid plans, so the saying goes, can go awry. That seems to be the case with C&P, which is continuing to receive complaints from out-of-towners who can't complete calls into Maryland when using the new 410 area code.

The problem, according to Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Co., is that many out-of-state businesses haven't yet reprogrammed their office telephone equipment to recognize the new Maryland area code on out-going calls.

The biggest offenders are office private branch exchange (PBX) and Centrex systems. These centralized systems route calls by area code, so if a code isn't recognized, the call is rejected before it ever gets out of the building into the public network.

The 410 problem isn't limited to out-of-towners. Al Burman, a C&P spokesman, said that a number of local businesses are experiencing the same problem. He said that C&P has received about 200 complaints so far about the dialing problem, which affects long-distance calls within the new 410 calling area.

One of those complaints came from Marlene Brush, who runs a personnel consulting business with her husband in Pikesville.

Mrs. Brush said she became alarmed last week when she found out that several out-of-town clients experienced problems when they tried to call using the 410 area code. Luckily, a few of those clients remembered the old area code and redialed using 301.

"We do a lot of long-distance calling, and we were quite concerned it could mean lost business for us," Mrs. Brush said.

She said that she hasn't had any complaints from clients this week about the new area code. But as a precaution, she has been advising clients to use the old area code when calling in.

For out-of-towners, the problem is compounded because directory information operators have already begun giving out 410 as eastern Maryland's area code. That is despite the fact that use of the new code isn't mandatory until Nov. 1, 1992.

But out-of-towners may not know that, so many are finding themselves stuck in area-code limbo.

Out-of-town callers from State Farm Insurance and the University of Chicago have gotten caught in the 410 snare, suggesting that word about the new area code hasn't traveled fast enough or far enough despite C&P's efforts.

C&P, meanwhile, has been placing advertisements in national publications to remind businesses about the switch.

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