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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 13, 1996
DWINDLING SUPPLY OF PHONE NUMBERS
TRIGGERS NEED FOR A NEW AREA CODE IN THE 717 AREA
Bell Atlantic Says an "Overlay" Is the Most Practical,
Least Disruptive Solution
Like grains of sand or stars in the sky, most people feel there's no
end to the supply of telephone numbers.
"The truth is, the reserve of telephone numbers in the 717 area is
diminishing at an astonishing rate," said Bill Harral, president of
Bell Atlantic-Pennsylvania. He estimates that the 717 area code will
run out of available phone numbers in mid-1998.
"We must act now," Harral said.
How do you come up with new phone numbers?
Bell Atlantic will propose to the Pennsylvania Public Utility
Commission a plan called an "overlay." With an overlay, a new
code would be added within the same geographic boundaries as those of
the 717 area code. Existing phone numbers in the 717 area would begin
with "717" followed by seven digits, while new phone numbers in
same area would have the new area code followed by the seven-digit
"The advantage of the overlay is that it doesn't slice
in half, and it doesn't force anyone to change his or her phone
number," said Harral.
The shortage of telephone numbers is triggered by the explosive
popularity of cellular telephones, multiple residential phone lines,
pagers, fax machines and modems. Further demand for numbers results
from the entrance of new companies seeking to provide local service.
Harral noted that in 1995 Bell Atlantic assigned some 440,000 new phone
numbers in the 717 area. Already in the first five months of 1996 the
company assigned 410,000 numbers, and it predicts that number could
reach 800,000 by the year's end.
The overlay does come with one necessary dialing change. Once it's
introduced, all callers will need to dial the full ten-digit telephone
number (three-digit area code plus the seven digit number) for all
calls -- an eventuality which is unavoidable in Pennsylvania, said
Harral. "Because we need so many new phone numbers, ten-digit
is becoming a way of life in this country. By implementing an
overlay, we will put Pennsylvania in the forefront in meeting the
demand for phone numbers."
The 717 area code extends through central and northeast Pennsylvania
including Harrisburg, the Susquehanna Valley and the Poconos.
Will a new area code change toll rates? "Absolutely not," said
Harral. "A local call will remain a local call, even if it's in the
new overlay area code."
Harral noted that a less desirable alternative is to split the 717
area, assigning a new area code to the split-off portion. The
downside of the "geographic split" is that "communities of
are divided and more than a million telephone numbers would have to
change," said Harral. Businesses in the new area code would have to
change numbers on stationery, business cards, catalogs, promotional
material and company vehicles. Businesses and other customers
throughout the old and new area codes would incur expenses to
reprogram equipment such as cellular phones and burglar alarms.
Further, while businesses assigned to the new area code would bear the
hardship of changing their telephone numbers, their competitors
remaining in the current area code would not.
Another disadvantage of the geographic split is that business and
residence customers dialing between the old and new area codes would
have to dial eleven digits (one plus the area code plus the
"After studying all the issues, we believe the overlay is the most
practical and the least disruptive approach to meeting the growing
need for phone numbers. Clearly, it's in the best interests of all
customers," said Harral.
Bell Atlantic Corporation (NYSE: BEL) is at the forefront of the new
communications, entertainment and information industry. In the
mid-Atlantic region, the company is the premier provider of local
telecommunications and advanced services. Globally, it is one of the
largest investors in the high-growth wireless communication
marketplace. Bell Atlantic also owns a substantial interest in
Telecom Corporation of New Zealand and is actively developing
high-growth national and international business opportunities in all
phases of the industry.
- Shirley Risoldi, 412-633-5574