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ALBANY, NY -- It is the nightmare of a patient awaiting a transplant: a hospital phone system that cannot connect to the on-call service that works against the clock to transport organs to patients in critical need. It is a businesspersons nightmare: a phone system that cannot connect to that important customer in another city. New area codes use 2 through 9 in the middle digit. Some older private branch exchange equipment (PBXs) -- phone switching equipment widely-used by businesses, hospitals, and other multi-line facilities to place and receive phone calls -- cannot complete direct dialed-calls to the new area codes. (These older systems, which can only complete calls to the new area codes through operator assistance, calling cards and similar third-party billings, continue to work for incoming calls.)
It is believed that many organizations needing to upgrade have not. The result: they may not be able to reach regions with new area codes, including Atlanta, Chicago, Miami, Houston and other major metropolitan areas.
By the end of 1996, there will be 23 of these new area codes in use in North America -- 15 will be added by the end of 1995, with another eight scheduled for 1996. Furthermore, private equipment owners must upgrade in order to complete calls to the new toll-free "888" area codes that will be in operation by March 1, 1996.
To create awareness of the national and international implications of the change, the telecommunications industry -- including local exchange carriers, long distance companies, equipment manufacturing companies, state utility commissions, the United States Telephone Association and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) -- is launching a campaign, "Dont Get Stuck in the Middle," targeting businesses and institutions using PBX systems, key, or other types of programmable telephone equipment. An important element of the campaign is to encourage PBX owners to call a test number to determine whether their equipment can complete calls to the new area codes. Wednesday, November 1, is designated National Area Code Day -- Take The Test. Owners of PBX telephone systems and other consumers are encouraged to call the test number: 281-792-9999. If the call does not go through, callers should then call the Area Code Hotline at 1-800-218-6436, to report the difficulty.
The advent of the new area codes came about when the 144 original area code numbers -- those with a 0 or 1 as the middle digit -- were depleted. Industry experts point to tremendous growth in the use of cellular phones, modems, fax machines, pagers and other telecommunications services as the reason behind the increased demand for additional telephone numbers.
"All business owners should call the test number to ensure that their phone systems can read the new area codes," said Thomas Mazzucco,
NYNEX area operations manager - Technical Operations and Support.
"Telecommunications plays a vital role in business today, and organizations that have private systems are a critical part of todays expanded network. The ever-expanding array of services will continue to drive demand for additional telephone numbers, and we are committed to making changes in this dynamic network, such as the introduction of new area codes, as simple as possible. Working with business owners to identify older PBX systems is one way we can assist customers with their telecommunications needs," stated Mazzucco.
The specific upgrade required by an organization will depend entirely on the system it owns. For this reason, owners of PBXs and similar private systems should consult their equipment providers to determine their particular needs.
NYNEX is a global communications and media company that provides a full range of services in the northeastern United States and high-growth markets around the world, including the United Kingdom, Thailand, Gibraltar, Greece, Indonesia, the Philippines, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.
The Corporation is a leader in the telecommunications, wireless communications, cable television, directory publishing and entertainment and information services.