U.S. FCC to Consider Mandatory 10-Digit Dialing for Phone Calls

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12/05 15:48 U.S. FCC to Consider Mandatory 10-Digit Dialing for Phone Calls By Jonathan Cox

Washington, Dec. 5 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. consumers soon may need to use 10 digits for all their telephone calls as regulators consider a plan to shore up a dwindling supply of new phone numbers as demand for additional services expands.

The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday will review a measure that would require customers to always dial the three- digit area code plus seven-digit phone number, agency officials told reporters at a briefing. The move would require local companies such as Verizon Communications and SBC Communications Inc. to adjust their systems to recognize the dialing pattern.

New services such as mobile phones, fax machines, pagers and the Internet have drained the pool of available numbers, forcing the agency to consider nationwide changes. Without modifications, the system for creating and assigning phone numbers may run dry within 15 years, FCC officials said. Expanded dialing would create about 1.5 billion numbers.

At the meeting, the FCC may act to adopt 10-digit dialing or delay action until the industry and consumers can comment. It will also consider several other solutions to improve the way the phone number database is managed.

Verizon said switching to 10-digit dialing would be easy in its network because the capability is already a feature of most switches that route phone calls. BellSouth Corp. said it supports a move to 10-digit dialing to promote a uniform system nationwide.

State regulators have some control over whether consumers dial 10 numbers or seven numbers, and about a half dozen, including Maryland and Virginia, already require callers to use 10 digits.

To avoid imposing 10-digit dialing, many states have split regions into smaller zones and changed the area code for some consumers. The decision often adds expenses as businesses print stationery to reflect new numbers, and can confuse callers who need to add three digits when dialing friends and colleagues.


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), December 05, 2000

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