November 23, 1999

Calling Space Center, 3-2-1

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    Bureaucrats aren't particularly known for a sense of humor or of history. So it was something of a shock when the North American Numbering Plan Administration, the agency that assigns area codes, came up with a clever new one for Brevard County in Florida.

    The county, home of Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center, has long had ties to the space program. So the new code, which is being used voluntarily starting this month and will become permanent in a year, is 321, as in "3-2-1 liftoff."

    Actually, the idea didn't come from a pencil-pusher, but rather from a Brevard resident, Robert Osband, who describes himself as a telecommunications hobbyist and space enthusiast.

    "This gentleman came to one of our hearings and said, 'Look, can we get 321 for Brevard County?' " said Kevin Bloom, a spokesman for the Florida Public Service Commission.

    The commission, which was exploring ways to supplement the existing 407 area code in that part of Florida, then took the unusual step of requesting a specific number from the numbering agency. As it turned out, Bloom said, 321 had already been promised to suburban Chicago. But after some lobbying by a member of the Florida commission, the number was given to Brevard.

    Bloom said that the commission members had been completely taken by the idea when Osband presented it. "Sometimes the best ideas are the simplest ones," he said. "And we in government don't always see them."

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