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 1999 April    X   X   X   XXXXX     X   X    X      Area Code
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(C) Copyrt. 1999 Ozzie, +1 321 Liftoff(543-8633), n4scy@amsat.org
Published by  Via Oz Press, PO Box 6841, Titusville FL, USA 32782
"Via Oz"  is a fanzine pubbed irregularly for inclusion in APA-Nu

Fantasy Week - 1999

by Robert Osband

It started on a Thursday morning (I never could get the hang of Thursdays). Pat Duggins, newscaster on 90.7 WMFE, the local National Public Radio member station came on my radio.

"The Public Service Commission has just decided that folks in Brevard County will have the area code with the last numbers heard by Astronauts before they blast-off from the Kennedy Space Center - 321". It was 6:04 AM on 1999 February 11. I looked up from my e-mail, and gave a loud Whoop. I'd done it! I'd pulled off the ultimate Phone Phreak hack - I'd gotten my own area code!!

Testifying before the
Public Service Commission.

On 1998 September 29, the Florida Public Service Commission held a Public Hearing at the Orlando City Hall on the subject of "Area Code 407 Relief". I'd missed the hearings in August, and I took a day off from work to attend. I'd pulled some information off the internet, and armed with my print-outs, I went on down.

I was there an hour early, or so. It's a nasty habit of mine, and allows me to "pull recon" (do reconnaisance), see what's going on, and (most importantly) try to find out what the proceedures are. I once gave testimony at PSC hearings in New York, and had picked up a few tricks that I applied here.

I had a printout of my testimony to give to the person transcribing my talk. The look of gratitude I got from the fellow in New York City was something I've always remembered. He was able to follow what I was saying with what I was suppossed to have said (in my printed remarks), and was able to keep up with my adlibs, as well. Working with the printed copy made things so much easier.

I also had enough copies for the Commissioners (based on something that they had on their Web Site). Actually, I blew it, and was one copy short, and had to borrow back one of the copies to read from. In my PSC Testimony, I pointed out that since the Space Coast was "The Countdown Capital of the World" (admittedly, some dramatic hyperbole), then it would be appropriate to have the numbers 321 as our next area code. Furthermore, the North American Numbering Plan Administration based in Denver CO, shows in it's web page titled NPA Inventory List that Numbering Plan Area (the technical term meaning "area code") 321 was "Available for Geographic Relief" - exactly the topic under discussion at the hearing. That is, the "geographic relief" of the near-exploding 407 area code.

New area codes are required, because with all the new services provided to the public, more and more numbers are being used up. It is no longer uncommon to have a home phone number, pager number, cell phone number, fax number, and a second line for the computer modem. All these numbers use up the spare numbers on existing telephone exchanges, requiring new exchanges. The fact is, there are a finite number of exchanges that can be in an area code. It used to be that a telephone exchange could not have a 1 or a 0 in the middle, making it look like an area code, but with all electronic switching now done by programmable computer switches, that rule was abandoned to help forstall the inevitable for a few more years.

The Commissioners just loved the proposal. As Commissioner Joe Garcia said, "We like to have something like this as a 'sugar coating', because no one likes to have their area code changed". Commission Chairman Linda Johnson came up to me later and said that they had asked the North American Numbering Plan Administration for such a list as I had provided, and they had said that the information was "Proprietary", and could not be divulged. While there is alot of information out on the Internet from unauthorized sources, this time the data came from The Rightious Source!

The Telephone Industry was represented at the Public Hearing, and some cold water was thrown on the proposal. The gentleman represnting NANPA said that he would have to check if the number was indeed available, and it was pointed out that the 407-321 telephone exchange was in Sanford. It was highly frowned upon to have an exchange that is the same as the area code. If Sanford was included in the geographic area that would be switched to 321, there could be a problem.

The real problem turned out to be that Chicago had recieved a "back-room handshake" promise that they would get the 321 area code to go with the 312 area code the next time they needed another "overlay" to handle the ever increasing telephone traffic of "The Windy City". But once the word got out, the idea took on a life of it's own. Local politicians and activists got into the act, and started putting political pressure towards getting the number approved. the week before the final decision, an article ran in Florida Today, newspaper of record for Brevard County, that the idea was in trouble, and might not be approved (mentioning the promise to Chicago).

As I write this, I haven't yet inquired, but I suspect that Florida's role in the management of NARUC, the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, may have meant that our commissioners had the political clout to get the job done. The fact is, I have influenced the image of the Space Coast of Florida for decades to come. And I'm extremely happy about it!!

My Original Fantasy for the First Day of Service

The way I forsee the First Day of Service for the 321 Area Code sees me in Tallahassee, Florida's state capitol. I get my "Kodak Moment" (Fuji film won't do, since I'm not only from Rochester NY, but my dad worked in the Roll Coating department at Eastman Kodak, where they coated the acitate base with the light sensitive chemicals that "do the magic"). I not only get my photo getting a handshake from the Governor, but I get to stand at his side as he places the first Official Call to the 321 area code, to Roy Bridges. Mr Bridges is the Director of the Kennedy Space Center, and a former Space Shuttle Pilot (STS-51F).

Please realize that when I presented my testimony to the Public Service Commission last September, I was merely a simple Directory Assistance Operator for Excell Agent Services of Rockledge FL. This company, based in Arizona, operates its call centers under contract to AT&T. At the time we handled traffic to 555-1212 Directory Assistance for 25 states, or more. The Rockledge call center has recently switched over to provide AT&T's "Double-0 Info" service.

But when the 321 Area Code was announced, I not only had my job as a DA Operator, but I was a student with the Florida Space Institute. This course took students from a number of local colleges, and not only taught them the history of space flight, but gave them a look at the hardware it takes to to get the job done. And the infrastructure. I signed up for the course simply to drool over the hardware.

On Thursday I got the word that my fantasy of getting area code 321 came true. The next day, I got the chance to thank Pat Duggins personally for giving me The Word, because I was scheduled to answer phones for the station's pledge drive. From the station, I drove directly out to the Space Center for class. It was the day we went to the Mila Tracking Station.

MILA stands for Merrit Island Launch Annex. It was the name for the territory that would later become the Kennedy Space Center, and was retained as the radio Call Sign for the tracking station, which is operated by the Goddard Space Center. Goddard coordinates NASA's world wide communications networks.

I had dreamed of visiting Mila for over a decade, but it's not part of the regular tour of the Space Center that you can purchase at the KSC Visitor Complex, and I kept missing the once-a-year "Open House" days for KSC families of workers. As a member of the Titusville Amateur Radio Club, I have enough friends who'd take me out, but just hadn't gotten it together. Here, with this course, I was getting the tour of a lifetime!!

Monday Morning saw me on the team for the first Double-0 info calls, and it was so refreshing! This was a highly personallized service that would not let us send numbers off to Jane Barbie, the pre-recorded voice that AT&T has used in all the recordings for decades. In the past, we could not give out numbers that we had in front of us on our screen, since Directory Assistance could not give out information with a name, or at least a street for the party. This meant, you couldn't just say "I want a Florist in Milwaukee". Unless there was a Florist with Milwaukee in the name, we couldn't give it out.

Actually, the history of the dial telephone comes from this question. Armond Strowger was a Kansas City undertaker. His cross-town rival had a girl-friend who was a telephone operator. When a grief-stricken relative picked up the phone to ask "Central" to connect them with an undertaker, she would always send the call to her boy friend. When Stroger found out, he was furious, and invented the mechanical Stepping Switch which was the basis for dial telephones for decades, until the invention of the crossbar switch. But for many small town telephone exchanges, Strowger Switches were all that they needed. Crossbar was for lager offices. Many "phone phreaks" consider Strowger to be the first of their kind, having invented the first devise to successfully circumvent the Operator.

From the very start, I was always arguing with my SM (Sergeant Major Service Manager, my boss) about my ACHT (Average Call Handling Time), the amount of time I give to each call. Sure, a call for the Holiday Inn in Paducah KY is a few quick keystrokes, and "Release to Audio" (let Jane do it). But when someone wanted a small town hospital with Centrex, then every broom closet has a telephone listing, and they no longer mention where the switchboard can be found. In the Centrex system, there is no PBX (Private Branch eXchange) in the company that handles the telephone calls. Every telephone is connected to the local telephone Central Exchange, and are handled as "extentions" of a "virtual PBX". On the inside, you just dial the last 4 digits, or so, to reach another extention. To get an outside line you have to dial 9. When it comes to listing these numbers in the phone book, though, administrators forget to list a main number as a main point of contact for the hospital.

I'm going to waste time for my customer to get them the best number that will get them their party. It's a hassle some times, and I hate it when my own people give me a hassle for doing what I feel is the best job for the customer. With the Double-0 Info service, I'm in heaven! I'm allowed the luxury of the time to provide a proper number for the customer. For more than a year, I've been telling customers asking for florist's and taxicabs to dial "00" for the long distance operator, and at the first computer prompt press "1" and ask for a Business Catagory Search (we're not getting tied up in a copyright thing about calling it Yellow Pages). Now I am that Double-0 Info operator, and I can give out those numbers.

Other Fantasies Coming True

So here it is, the middle of March, and a few more of the Fantasies are coming true. I sent out an E-Mail to Governor Jeb Bush (The one who tells the Texas Governor, "Dad always liked you best"), and Space Shuttle Pilot Astronaut Roy Bridges, Director of the Kennedy Space Center. It oulined my ideas for that "First Day Of Service Phone Call" from Governor Bush to the Director of the Kennedy Space Center the day the 321 Area Code goes into effect. I looked up Mr Bridges e-mail address on the KSC X500 directory (a directory protocol in little use, but VERY useful where it IS in use). Governor Bush was even easier. I simply went to the State of Florida Web Site, which gave an eddress for him.

I got a reply from Governor Bush a week later, congratulating me on my idea (the 321 Area Code) becoming a reality, and that he'd have his scheduling folks get in touch with me. (Did you notice that this "Texas Native" doesn't have "scheduling people", but "scheduling folks"? Such things go over well with Florida's "Good 'Ol Boys")

But that wasn't the best news I got that weekend. Just after I got the word that 321 was a "go" (as we say at the Space Center), I sent an e-mail to the president of BellSouth Mobility, the local Cellular carrier. The weekend after the Public Service Commission hearing, I went into the local mall, and spoke with the lady in the BSM Kiosk, and tried to "buy" a telephone number. I wanted 543-8633, which was in a BellSouth Mobility telephone exchange.

After making some inquires, the lady told me that the number was in a block of numbers that was "owned" by some large company, or other, and that my number was not available. I let the matter drop, but having dialled the number, I knew it was available. Among the "special deals" available from cellular carriers are "corporate rates", which (for billing purposes) means that all of one company's numbers will be in a "block" to make call detailing easier to manage.

Once the 321 Area Code was approved, however, it was time to push the issue. I mean, the worst he could do was say "No". So I got up on their Web site, found the fellow's name, and the name & e-mail address of the Publicity flack who ran interference for him. I simply formated Mark Fiedler's name the same way as the flunky's email address, and shipped the thing off on a Friday Night. Sunday evening I got the e-mail from Mr Feidler saying he's handing it off to his VP for Regulatory Affairs, and the fellow in charge of Marketing in the state of Florida. Later that week, I got the phone call from a lady in West Palm Beach that I got my number.

Just now it's in the 407 Area Code. After "cutover", I'll be the one you get when you dial "321 Liftoff "!!! Does anyone have a problem rembmering this number?   :-)>

Or rather, you'll get my Consulting Company. I set up the web site for THAT just before the article in The Wall Street Journal hit the streets. Hmm, "If I'm going ot have an article in the Journal," I thought to myself, "I ought to have a Consulting Shingle hung out, and try to make some bucks off of it". So I did. My "consulting shingle" is located at SpaceyIdeas.Com. Ads will always end with a question, followed by the "Tag Line", as in:

An Area Code that reflects the ideals of the Countdown Capitol of the World?
"What a Spacey Idea!"™

And so, "Spacey Ideas" is the name of my new consulting outfit. "Let us put a 'Space Spin' on your product, or marketing plan", says the copy. Before the approval from the Commission, I was starting to lay out a proposal to open a Cyber Cafe here in Titusville. The proposal is at http://SpaceyIdeas.Com/sc3/, but by logging in with Username: trade, Password: secrets, (all lower case, of course) you are agreeing to an "online non-disclosure agreement". This allows potential investors to take a look, and (hopefully) covers my ass.

It would be REAL fun to run the consulting company out of the back of the Cyber Cafe.

"Via Oz" is published irregularly by Robert Osband for inclusion in , also known as Emotional American. APA Nu is the APA (Amateur Press Association) of the NYU Science Fiction Association, which is no longer affiliated with New York University. It is now commonly referred to as the New York Unlimited Science Fiction Society.

This publication is availabe on the World Wide Web at http://SpaceyIdeas.Com/publicity/apanu9904.html

Via Oz is published by

Robert Osband N4SCY,
PO Box 6841,
Titusville  FL,
USA  32782.

+1 321 Liftoff (543-8633) Voicemail/Cellular

NOTICE: 1999 November 1 will be the first day of service of MY new Area code. That's right it's MY area code. I asked for it, the Public Service Commission aproved it, so it must be mine, right? But I share!

Ozzie's home page is at http://spaceyideas.com/ozzie

Please also visit Ozzie's Launch FAQ Page, which answers Frequently Asked Questions about viewing space launches from the Space Coast of Florida.

"Spacey Ideas", the ringed light bulb, and "What a Spacey Idea!" are Trademarks and/or Service Marks of Robert Osband.