As printed in the 8/10/98 issue of TeleServices News

The Nightmare of Area Code Changes

The North American Numbering Plan Administration is not helping companies telephone.

NANPA is under contract to the Federal Communications Commission to keep track of the area code changes. During 1995, the FCC ordered that NANP administration should be transferred to a neutral third party, Belcore a New Jersey company formed in 1984 from the breakup of AT&T. The contract was sold to Lockheed Martin in February.

AT&T previously administered NPA codes centrally and at the local exchange carriers level. Belcore is still managing the watch over the area code changes but they are no longer providing telemarketing companies with the software to correct area codes, nor are they providing any technical support for the software sold earlier.

The Rich List Company discovered the software in February, however, and we have worked to update our database of 200 million names with corrected phone area codes, which we finished last month.

Lockheed will be overseeing the assignment of area codes, prefixes or three digit central office codes called NXX. Belcore will provide local number portability services to telephone companies to allow customers to keep their existing telephone numbers if they switch to a new service provider.

NANPA covers the United States, Canada and most of the Caribbean -- area codes are new for each island -- The Dominican Republic retained 809.

Expect changes to 415, 213, 408, 619, 209, 805 and 909 in California; 704, 910 and 919 in North Carolina; 508 and 617 in Massachusetts; 407 and 904 in Florida as well as914 (NY), 912 (GA), 612 (MN), 412 (PA), 405 (OK), 803 (SC), 203 (CT), 614 (OH) and 816 (MO). NANPA expects these area codes to run out of available numbers. The FCC has allowed for 792 area codes but just 250 are currently in use. Changes, however, are daily, political and confusing.

Split area codes and overlays in the same geographic area only heighten the confusion. If you live in an overlay zone and when you decide to get an extra phone line for whatever purpose, you will get a new area code. Telemarketers will think you have moved although your address is the same.

Switching equipment also causes problems. Most overseas switching equipment is not up to handling the changes and if you have overseas clients they will most likely be told your number has been disconnected. This can also happen in the U.S. where the FCC has guidelines for how long the old area code can be used.

MCI may choose to stick with one area code as long as possible while AT&T might choose to use only the new area code.

Human switching errors to the wrong area code can also result in a disconnection message, as can the use of older phones not equipped to dial the new area codes.

Belcore software listed the state, area code effect and chronological effect. To correct area codes on a telemarketing list more than 80 separate programs must be run.

Belcore lists changes by chronological age of the change. Thus if 213 became 310 and then became 818 -- there is no program to run past files that will go from 213 to 818. You must run your files twice -- actually 80 times. To correct your own list you must change the area codes as they were changed in the so-called area code history.

Local service providers, such as Bell Atlantic decide at the local level the area code release plan, which can be an overlay, split, or other plan such as the one in Minnesota that allows people that live along the Mississippi River to have two area codes.

Each state has their own industry regulatory agency and Lockheed tries to serve as referee for the industry.

If you have a large database of telephone numbers and are now in tears, remember that the Direct Mail Marketing Association began from telemarketing complaints that they hoped to regulate.

Zip codes should become area codes. This is currently outlawed, however, for privacy reasons.

Each area code change gives us eight million new phones managed by 1,600 telephone companies. Phone companies, as well as direct marketing companies should join together to lobby for a user-friendly area code system.

Perhaps matching the Postal Sectional Center Facilities with the telephone billing areas would allow for using zip codes for area codes.

We know our zip codes, so to use it for an area code is a no-brainer. Congress, as well, should change telecommunications laws.

With the change of one billion phone numbers under the original 144 area code to 784 area codes with a capacity of 6 billion numbers, we need to get back to sanity.

Leslie Mandel is president of Leslie Mandel Enterprises Inc. The Rich List Company, a full service direct mail company based in New York.

For now, look to Rich List Company to update your area codes. We can clean your list as we do our own by matching your list to the US phone books, cleaning through NCOA for change of address, move no forward, deleting or marking all pander file names, deleting or marking all deaths (with 43 million deaths), adding demographics and running the 80 programs to update your area codes.

The Rich List Company, a Division of Leslie Mandel Enterprises

Fax: 212 861-5384
Phone: 212 737-8917
Address: PO Box 294
Wainscott, NY 11975