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Phone numers are a little longer today

May 01, 1997

By GUY FLETCHER

Staff Writer

Maryland telephone users today face what might be the biggest change since the introduction of Touch-Tone dialing as a Bell Atlantic requirement that 10 digits be dialed for all local calls takes effect.

Push-button dialing was optional, however. Ten-digit dialing is not.

The combination of the traditional seven-digit number plus the three-digit area code must be dialed for every local call in the state.

Local reaction to the change varied Wednesday.

"I was in the Army and I'm used to taking orders. I know there's a reason for it," said Flo Miles, a resident of Potomac Towers in Hagerstown.

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There are those, however, who aren't happy about the inconvenience of having to dial the extra digits just to order a pizza or call a neighbor.

"I don't like that. I don't like that at all," said Joe Percino, another city resident.

The 10-digit local call means, in many cases, that telephone speed dialers, fax machines, modems and home security systems not reprogrammed by this morning won't work.

Callers who forget to punch in the area code when they dial local numbers will hear a recorded message informing them of the error.

Employees with the Washington County Board of Education are getting a break because of a new phone system that allows calls to be made among the system's 1,000 phones by touching four numbers, said Dennis McGee, director of facilities management for the school board.

"We're saving the employees here quite a bit of time," McGee said.

Bell Atlantic has said the 10-digit requirement is needed so that two new area codes - 240 and 443 - can be added to the state to expand its dwindling number of available phone numbers. Because those codes will share the same geographic area as the existing 301 and 410 codes, houses on the same block might have different area codes - a scenario that requires 10-digit dialing.

One practical concern about 10-digit dialing is that many elevators with one-touch emergency phones required by the Americans with Disabilities Act must be updated.

"That might be something ... our customers have not thought to change," said Matt Morgan, branch manager for General Elevator.

Citicorp Credit Services Inc. has hundreds of telephones in its center near Washington County Regional Airport. But company spokesman Phil Kelly said the 10-digit requirement is expected to have little impact because most of its calls are incoming and many of the outgoing calls are long distance.

"I think it's going to affect me personally more than it's going to affect the company," he said.

Wayne E. Alter Jr., president and CEO of Dynamark Security Centers Inc., said the statewide change affects about 1 percent of the national company's customers, who have been getting their home security systems reprogrammed.

Alter said that after the initial inconvenience, the positive thing about 10-digit local calls is that it ensures that there will be no changes made to a phone number.

"I think in the long term it's going to be a better system," he said.

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