THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT Copyright (c) 1995, Landmark Communications, Inc. DATE: Wednesday, November 1, 1995 TAG: 9511010459 SECTION: BUSINESS PAGE: D2 EDITION: FINAL SOURCE: STAFF REPORT LENGTH: Medium: 51 lines
America loves to talk at home, at work, on cellular phones and pagers.
But a proliferation of phone numbers in the last 15 years has caused a problem for some businesses. Their PBX - Private Branch Exchange - phone systems aren't set up to handle calls to some new area codes.
To create awareness of the problem, phone companies and state and federal regulators are kicking off a nationwide campaign called ``Don't Get Stuck in the Middle.''
Business owners and managers are being encouraged to call a number (in Virginia, (540) 829-9910).
The number tests whether their PBX systems allow dialing to new area codes that have a middle digit other than ``1'' or ``0.''
If the call doesn't go through, callers should contact a special area code hot line, (800) 218-6436, to report the problem.
By the end of 1996, there will be at least 23 area codes in the United States that have a middle digit other than ``0'' or ``1'' - including the new Northern Virginia code of 540.
That code will become mandatory for callers Jan. 27.
In addition, Bell Atlantic Corp. has said that a new code with a middle digit ranging from ``2'' to ``9'' may have to be carved out of central and southeastern Virginia's 804 area code by 1998.
And a whole spate of new toll-free numbers will begin with 888 by April 1996 because the supply of 800 numbers has almost been exhausted.
When the first area code, 201, was introduced in New Jersey in 1951, phone-numbering experts thought there would be enough codes with a middle digit of ``0'' or ``1'' to last well into the next century.
Many PBX systems were set up with the same expectation. But now that new codes with middle digits from ``2'' through ``9'' are going into effect, many business owners are finding their phone systems aren't configured to allow calling into those codes.
Upgrading the systems generally costs between $850 to $17,500, according to Virginia's State Corporation Commission.
Businesses can choose not to upgrade.
But that means employees will have to bypass the PBX system by using operator assistance, calling cards or calling collect to complete calls into the new area codes, the commission said.
KEYWORDS: LONG DISTANCE TELEPHONE SERVICE by CNB