Monday, December 13, 1999

Let's have 386 (FUN) with area code




BY CLIFF RADEL
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Ma Bell and her phone pals around here are running low on telephone numbers. To remedy the shortage, they need new area codes on both sides of the river in Greater Cincinnati.

        Last week, southwestern counties on the Cincinnati shore joined Northern Kentucky in the long nationwide line of 70 locales calling for new codes. Already a certain tension is in the air.

        Sometime in 2002, the 513 area code is expected to run out of numbers. Fax machines, home computers, cell phones, ATMs and pagers will have helped exhaust the supply. A new code — using an as yet unannounced number — will be needed.

        The changes will be expensive and nerve-wracking. Businesses must retool their phone systems, reprint their stationery and rework their refrigerator magnets. Frazzled householders must memorize yet another set of numbers.

        The new area code for Northern Kentucky goes into effect on an introductory basis starting April 1. For six months, callers can dial the 606 or 859 area code and still make the connection.

        After Oct. 1, dial the wrong area code and bells go off before a computerized voice murmurs: “We're sorry. The number you're calling cannot be completed as dialed.”

        Such changes often lead to carping. They should lead to rejoicing.

        The creation of a new area code can be fun. It's a golden opportunity to come up with numbers worth remembering, digits of distinction.

Follow Kentucky's lead
        Northern Kentucky's new area code already stands out. To Kentucky Wildcat fans, 859 means: UKY.

        The Northern Kentucky number is not the only customized area code in the land. Cape Canaveral has 321, as in 10, 9, 8 ... 3, 2, 1. Blast off.

        “Area code 865 near Knoxville stands for VOL,” said Rebecca Barnhart of the North American Numbering Plan Administration (NANPA), a governmental body in charge of numbering area codes. “VOL stands for the nickname of the University of Tennessee, the Volunteers.” She is based in Washington, D.C., area code 202. But, she's a native of Owensboro, Ky., area code 270.

        Numbers are in reserve for the new Southwestern Ohio area code, she said. “But anyone can petition NANPA, through the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, for a special number.”

        There are two restrictions for any new area code. The number can't duplicate one already in use and it can't match a well-used prefix in the area.

Create your own
        Everyone should have a say in picking the new area code. We shouldn't get stuck with some meaningless three-digit number. If Northern Kentucky can have a customized code, so can Southwestern Ohio.

        I have some area code candidates. One's collegiate:

        862 stands for UOC, the University Of Cincinnati.

        Two are corporate:

        764 (P'n'G) for Procter & Gamble.

        382 (FTB) for Fifth Third Bank.

        There's a financial statement:

        468 IOU for the ever-rising cost of two new, taxpayer-financed stadiums on the riverfront.

        Speaking of the home teams, there's always:

        733 (RED) for the Reds.

        266 (B-O-O) for the Bengals.

        I'm open to other suggestions. Phone in your customized code candidates. (The Enquirer's area code is 513). Or email to gnoble@enquirer.com

        My area code polls are open through Friday. I'll gather your ideas and print them in a future column. After checking to make sure the customized area codes haven't already been taken, I'll ship them off to the Public Utilities Commission in Columbus (area code 614), so they can be entered into the public record.

        This is your chance to help pick southern Ohio's new area code. We are going to get a new one eventually. Might as well have some fun with it. And get a code that means something, one everybody can remember.

        So, be creative. Put your finger to the keypad. Give it your best shot. In this telephone survey, there are no wrong numbers.

        Columnist Cliff Radel can be reached at (513) 768-8379; fax 768-8340.