One of the worst ideas to come down the pike since New Coke is a Georgia Public Service Commission plan, being pushed by BellSouth and the telecommunications industry, to require Augustans and others in the 706 area code to dial 10 digits for local calls.
That's right, 10 digits for local calls. What's the benefit? Everyone in the 706 dialing area would keep that code.
Well, there are some things more inconvenient than getting a new area code - and one of them is having to dial 10 digits whenever you use the phone. Ten-digit dialing is enough of a nuisance for long distance. Let's not expand it to local, too.
Where would it all stop stop? How long before there are 13, 15, 20 digits? For whatever reasons, multi-digit dialing may be wonderfully convenient for BellSouth and other telecommunications firms, but for ordinary customers it's the proverbial pain in the neck.
Not only that, but 10-digit local calls would take longer to look up, harder to remember and longer to dial. In emergencies or disasters - such as happened at BP Amoco Polymers Tuesday - this would add a huge workload, and take up more time to contact schools, businesses and residences.
Fortunately, the PSC is also looking at a more sensible proposal: to geographically split the 706 area in two, with half getting a new area code (470). This plan's benefit? It retains seven digit dialing for local calls - easily making it the preferable proposal.
The danger is that if telecommunications special interests dominate public input - as has been the case so far - then the PSC will approve their plan. The grass-roots must be heard from.
Comments, to be accepted until March 29, can be sent to the Public Service Commission, 224 Washington St. S.W., Atlanta, Ga., 30334. The decision will be announced April 3 and implementing the plan (whichever one it is) is slated for October 2002.
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