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October 4, 2005 12:03 AM

Broken: Bellsouth errors in Miami

Alesh writes in:

Bellsouth down here in Miami is broken - you have to guess whether to dial a 1 or not when calling within your own area code. If you guess wrong either way, you get reprimanded. Obviously they know who I'm trying to call, otherwise I'd get connected to somebody else. But instead of just connecting me, they give me an error message and make me redial.  Unbelievable.

(full post here)


they dont want u to take their service for granted.

Posted by: gmangw at October 4, 2005 12:33 AM

Umm... Doesn't the 1 mean it's a long-distance call? Personally I'd prefer to know whether or not I'm being charged for a call when I make it.

Posted by: Kenton Varda at October 4, 2005 01:00 AM

Actually, the 1 is a country code. To dial outside the U.S. you have to dial something different. So, really, unless you dial that 'something else,' it should just be assumed that you're dialing within the U.S. Broken.

Posted by: ambrocked at October 4, 2005 01:48 AM

Here in Portland, OR (Qwest), we have to dial the area code for local numbers (10-digit dialing), but NOT the one.

If you include the leading one, you get a message, "We're sorry, but it is not necessary to dial a one when calling this number. Please hang up and try again."

Well, if you know that the leading one was a mistake, why don't you just ignore it and connect me?

Posted by: bikko at October 4, 2005 03:02 AM

I have the same problem in New Port Richey, FL with Bright House Networks. When dialing inside the area code sometimes you dial the 727 area code, sometimes not. Sometimes you need to dial 1-727, sometimes not. It's a total crap shoot. I want to shoot that voice "you must dial a one to reach this number." "it's not necessary to dial a one to reach this number."

Posted by: Jpantis at October 4, 2005 07:08 AM

ambrocked you are right and wrong, yes 1 is the country code for the US when dialing from OUTSIDE the US, but from inside the US, it it used for long distance calls. We have the same problem in Southern Maryland flip a coin to dial 301, or 1-301. BROKEN only because if the range warrants a long distance call, then assign a new area code.

Posted by: Ed at October 4, 2005 08:10 AM

hey, im in portland too.

Posted by: gmangw at October 4, 2005 08:53 AM

Same problem here in Western Michigan in area code 231. And I'm completely with "bikko": If you know the leading one was a mistake, ignore it and connect my call.

I would *much* rather be required to dial 1-231- on *every*call* than not know whether to dial that 1 or not.

Posted by: stoo at October 4, 2005 09:42 AM

Now then, I live entirely on Verizon. I had Vonage, but it sucked.

Posted by: nick'd at October 4, 2005 10:01 AM

I'm on Verizon too. I have never had nor heard of this problem. (i live in clearwater, Jpantis)

Posted by: Bob at October 4, 2005 10:32 AM

As far as I know the 1 is for all of North America.(ie:US&Canada)

Also, requiring you to dial the 1 forces you to recognise that you are placing a long distance phone call.

By the way, doesn’t this occur with all landlines? (I am on Bell Canada)

As far as I know the only time a long distance call goes through without requiring that the 1 be dialled is when you are calling from a cell phone and even then there is a recorded message telling you that you should have dialled the 1 but that they are putting the call through anyway.(Rogers)

Personally I prefer the system used on cell-phones.

Posted by: Sean P at October 4, 2005 12:13 PM

"if the range warrants a long distance call, then assign a new area code."

When I lived in Currituck County, NC, you could call 50 miles north up the county and it was local and you dialed 7 numbers. 2 miles across the bridge in the other direction, same area code, it was long distance and you have to dial 1-XXX-7 numbers. Broken.

Posted by: JAC at October 4, 2005 12:41 PM

Adding to the confusion, on cell phones, the 1 is never required. I always dial 9 digits. On land lines, you have to dial the 1. I've made the mistake of dialing 9 digits more than once. Somewhat my own fault, but it would also be nice if they could standardize things for all phone communications.

BTW, Sean P, the 1 country code is not for all of North America. Mexico has a different country code. (And, technically, Central America is part of North America as well, and each of those countries has its own code.)

Posted by: Steve at October 4, 2005 12:46 PM

We have a similar situation in the Sacramento area of California. The Roseville telephone company only operates in a small area north east of Sacramento and if you want to dial out to a number which is outside their "jurisdiction," even if it has the same area code, you have to dial a 1. It's because your call has to switch network routers or something like that. I'm not saying it's not broken, but at least there's a reason: Greed, insensitivity and incompetence.

Posted by: Danimal at October 4, 2005 01:48 PM

Wanna hear about complicated dialing standards?

In Mexico City, where I live, there are many different ways to call a cell phone, depending on specific situations:

1. If you are calling from your own cell phone another cell from the same service provider, you should dial only the 8 digits of the other telephone.

2. If you are calling a cell phone from a land line or from a cell phone from a different carrier, then you have to dial a prefix (044) plus the area code (55) and then the 8 digits.

3. If you are trying to call a cell phone from another city or area code, you have to dial the prefix 01, followed by the area code which can consist of 2 or 3 digits, and then the phone number, that either consists of 7 or 8 digits.

I wonder if anyone can beat this....

Posted by: SAM at October 4, 2005 02:22 PM

I get what you're saying Ed, and yeah, the one is used when dialing long distance. But it's still our country's code. Whether I call my house from another state or another country, it's the same thing. The 1's just saying 'hey, I'm calling the U.S. (or Canada, apparently).' Then the area code narrows it down further. I don't know much about other countries' phone systems, but when I was in Australia, I never had to dial the 14 (their country code), and there was no '1' for long distance. Still seems redundant to me.

Posted by: ambrocked at October 4, 2005 02:29 PM

Sean P - the problem is not that people don't know what the 1 is for. The problem is that (a) you can't tell whether a call is long distance from the number alone, and (b) the system can detect the error, and tell you the solution, but doesn't just apply the solution for you by ignoring / inserting the 1

Posted by: Misha at October 4, 2005 07:24 PM

Get two cans and some string. .

Posted by: ron at October 5, 2005 02:52 AM

Actually, the solution is much easier then two cans and string, and it's been hinted at by previous commenters:

get rid of your land line and use cell for everything; cell phone companies can somehow figure this out.

i've heard there's a law coming that will force bellsouth to offer dsl even to people who aren't phone line customers, which to me is irrelevant, since cable based internet service seems better anyhow.

Posted by: alesh at October 5, 2005 08:17 AM

I remeber the story of the Microsoft tech (which may be false but is a good story anyway). ANyway he tells the person they need to pack up their computer and take it back ot the store and return it. They were to tell the store that they were to stupid to own a computer.

Well if you can't manage to figure out dialing any better than this, and can't manage top dial a 1 and the area code for long distance then guess what --- you are to stupid to use a phone. Call the phone company and ask them to disconnect your line.

Posted by: Ray Stevens at October 5, 2005 09:24 AM

Hey, Ray, you just don't get it. Come on out here to area code 231 and see if you can figure out whether to press 1 or not before you start saying people are too stupid to use a phone. You have to a) know the town in which the number you're calling is located (couple hundred towns in the area code here) and b) know whether that town is in your "local calling area" or not. The "local calling area" does not correlate with any geographical or political boundaries. But wait, it gets worse; we're not far from the boundary between 231 and 616; we live in 231, but some calls to 616 numbers require the 1 and some do not.

This is so simple for customers that there's a *full*page* of charts and lists showing which exchanges (not area codes but exchanges) can be called from each exchange without pressing 1.

The problem is not, as you suggest, that we can't press 1 to dial a long-distance call. The problem is that it's much more complicated than necessary to *determine* whether to press 1 or not, and if you get it wrong, you have to hang up and redial.

That's broken. And YOU'RE broken for suggesting that because we complain about this moronic system, we're too stupid to use a phone.

Posted by: stoo at October 5, 2005 10:23 AM

"if the range warrants a long distance call, then assign a new area code."

If they were to do this, we'd quickly run out of area codes. In most rural areas, a huge geographic area will share the same area code but will certainly not all be considered "local." In this case, it's rarely confusing whether or not you have to dial the area code (and make a long distance call), because the person you're calling is some 100 miles away, but there's no reason to give a whole new area code to towns of 10,000 people.

Posted by: Jo-Pete Nelson at October 5, 2005 11:47 AM

I'm starting to wonder . . . if the same problem is repeated over and over in systems around the country, maybe, for some unfantomable reason, there really is no practical way to fix it. I struggle to conceive how that might be (again, the system knows enough to tell you what to do, just not enough to DO it automatically), but surely the phone companies get complaints about this, and they must have looked at trying to fix it. Maybe the infastructure just is what it is?

But Ray is right - calling the phone company and having the line disconnected IS the proper solution. Cell phones don't seem to have this problem, and having a land line is rapidly becoming obsolete.

If the phone companies can't fix it, they're going to die. Hopefully all that infastructure can be put to good use as data lines.

Posted by: alesh at October 5, 2005 01:36 PM

Perhaps it's not that it *can't* be fixed, but that phone companies still think it's a feature. The reason why cell phones wouldn't have this "feature" is because on almost all cell phones, long distance costs just as much as local, so you really don't care if you're dialing a long distance number. On a land line, on the other hand, dialing the "1" probably corresponds with dialing a long distance number.

Posted by: Jo-Pete Nelson at October 5, 2005 06:07 PM

It's time to give up on all this area code, country code, "dial 1/don't dial 1" nonsense and admit that the phone numbering system - a system designed for a time when the number of phones was a couple of orders of magnitude smaller - is just broken and can no longer be patched.

Just go (worldwide) with a single, twelve-digit number for each phone. No area codes to remember/deduce/decide if you need. No dialing "1" or country codes or whatever nonsense. Just a single number that stays the same no matter where you dial from.

Do it the easy way, for once...

Posted by: David Johnson at October 5, 2005 07:47 PM

DaveJ, you're so right and so wrong.

"the phone numbering system - a system designed for a time when the number of phones was a couple of orders of magnitude smaller"

is on the money. But,

"Just go (worldwide) with a single, twelve-digit number for each phone."

Oh, like THAT would be "the easy way" ! People have enough problems with the seven digit numbers; the only reason they can remember area codes is that they usually deal with very few of them! Who remembers twelve digit numbers routinely?

Posted by: Ma Bell at October 5, 2005 08:20 PM

You folks who keep suggesting cell phones need to remember that life is different in other places. We live in a metro area with over a million people, but I get no cell phone signal at home because of the topography. I've tried every carrier who serves the area, and they all *say* we're covered, but then I bring the phone home, and no service. If I drive a half-mile inland (over a low ridge), I get four or five bars. I've tried to get that Verizon "can you hear me now" guy to come down my street, but no sign of him yet.

Posted by: stoo at October 5, 2005 08:40 PM

I'm amazed nobody has figured out why this problem occurs.

It is because the basic Bell phone system was, for decades, programmed to switch your call, digit by digit, as you "dial" (of course we don't "dial" any more). So by the time the first digit was dialed, if it was a "1" it tried to set up a long distance call, and if it was 2 through 9, it tried to set up a local call. (And if you dialed “0” you got a live operator!)

But if you confused it by dialing “1” and then the area code you were in, it wasn’t smart enough to automatically ignore the area code. Or, if you confused it by not dialing “1” and then dialing an area code, it would not find the area code in its listing of local three-digit prefixes, so no call could be placed. (Back then it was set up so that no area codes were the same as any three digit prefixes).

Fast forward to 2005.

Yes, anytime an "automated" system is smart enough to tell you what you did wrong, it should be smart enough to let you fix your error gracefully. So by current standards these idiot messages are indeed broken.

Switching is done by much smarter programs now; all the Baby Bells have to do is program their systems to put the call through if there is only one possible connection for the call, (optionally with a warning like, “This will be a long distance call; press “1” now to accept long distance charges, or hang up”).

And guess what: Some of them have started to! We have to dial ten digits around Denver; I can dial my home phone with or without the “1,” they both go through.

So yes it’s BROKEN now in certain places (because, alesh, it is fixable, but good try) although it might be fair to say it wasn’t broken when it was first set up that way.

Posted by: Ma Bell at October 5, 2005 08:41 PM

I think it is unreasonable for modern telephone systems to be so "Stone Age". If the phone company knows you're making a mistake, they could politely ask that you not dial the one next time, but your call would still connect. Key word here is "polite". The phone company for Sean P needs to be politer in it's message. That would at the very least provide a temporary fix that would get people so hacked off.

It reminds me of Monty Python's "How To Irritate People"(Very funny; definetly worth buying), where John Cleese specifically mentions how irritating the telephone system is in England. The operator answers to his queries regarding the inefficiencie of the telephone service by saying, "there are too many people on this island."

Any way, it would be very nice of the phone companies to fix this problem without resorting to the solution mentioned in "How to Irritate People"; that is deportation fo selected citizens, etc.

Can I be done now?

Ok, done.

Posted by: Sido at October 5, 2005 11:16 PM

Same problem in Palm Beach area with 561 are code. You never know where to dial without area code, with area code or 1+ area code. I switched to FDN (Florida Digital Network) rates are lower, any area from Sebastian to Key West is considered a local calling and they don't have dialing confusion. With Bell South anything outside of 561 is either .25 per call or $35.00 a month flat fee. Rip off.

Posted by: Mike at October 6, 2005 12:34 AM

well, nobody has yet identified the real trouble maker for the "1" problem, imho, the state PUCs. This accounts for the reason the same Operating Company can have different practices in adjacent states!

Consider the pressure from those of limited means to minimize their expense from inadvertant long distance calls. Therefore "in the public interest", PUCs mandated imposition of the "1" in many areas.

But the noise level from folks objecting to the "error recordings", if one guesses wrongly, was overwhelming! The MASSachusetts PUC, when reviewing going from 4 to 8 Area Codes in the Eastern part of the State, mandated that the "1" would be Allowable for local calls too! -- ie NO message if you dial "1" on EVERY call.

imho, all this talk about the International code for US as "1" is factually true, but not relivant to its selection for toll call identification. Nor is the original middle position in Area Codes of 0 or 1 to distinguish AC from CO numbering.

A "1" is/was sufficient to "break dial tone" but generally had no other purpose in the old days -- it was often a bounce of the switch hook. It was the One number that had no other use, so it became the LD code by default.

Posted by: Anti-Digit-Dialer at October 6, 2005 01:04 AM

I don't really understand the phone system, I'll admit, but just as devil's advocate, maybe the reason it does this is because it wants to train you to specifically use or not use the 1 to reach each particular person so that, eventually, they could assign the number to another person if necessary and you wouldn't end up accidentally dialing that other person repeatedly. If it's really true that making more area codes would cause them to run out, maybe eventually people will have to have the same number as someone else but with the one in front or not to distiguish it.

Posted by: SillyGirl at October 6, 2005 07:24 AM

I'm from Miami, too, and that's the least of your problems if you do business with Hell.. uh.. I mean... Bell South. I agree that this is very very broken, esp. in light of the fact that when you dial with your cell phone, using Cingular (who are owned by the same folks as BellSouth) it doesn't matter if you dial the "1", for any long-distance call, even if it's not in Florida!!! Are land lines SO different that the same technology could not be applied??? BellSouth, YOU hang up and dial again. Brokedy-broke-broke-broken.

Posted by: gretchen at October 6, 2005 08:50 AM

I have no idea how the phone system works, but could it be that it knows what you did wrong, but not how to fix it? I mean, if you dialed the one when it was not expected, could it be that the system knows that the reason it cannot find the number is that there is a one in front, but it does not remember what number it actually dialed to try to attach the one to it? (A solution would be to alert the caller as soon as it knows something is wrong instead of waiting for the whole number to be dialed. That's what Verizon does here if you forget about the new 10-digit calling rules. If you dial something other than 1 or 732 (my area code) or 908 (the other local area code) it will tell you right away that the call will not go through)

Posted by: Boris Zakharin at October 6, 2005 01:36 PM

As a frustrated BellSouth customer; the deal is that 10-disigit dialing is required on all local calls; because Bell South doesn't want to upgrade it's equipment, they would rather have enough complaints so they can go to the PU>C> and get authorized for a rate hike, to pay for upgrading their equipment. NOT BROKEN, working exactly like Bell South means it too.

Posted by: Wil at October 6, 2005 03:28 PM

Thanks, "Ma Bell" for an intelligent answer. Too bad intelligence is irrelevant! :)

For curiosity sake, I just dialed my cell phone and the area code is in another county. Normally, when I call my cell from my land-line to get my messages, I dial 1+ the number. This time, after reading the above posts, I did not dial the 1 and just dialed the 10 digits. I got someone else's line. Why? Because without dialing the 1, I actually dialed 234-5678 and the remaining digits were ignore because apparently, 234 is a valid exchange in my area.

While I dialed 234-567-8901, the exchange only "heard" 234-5678. Dialing the "1" triggers the system to see the first 3 digits as the area code and not the exchange code. Not dialing the 1 means that the first 3 digits are the exchange. This is broken!

More importantly, my new g/f lives 15 minutes away.... probably 6 miles. She calls me- it's free. I call her and last month's bill was 60 bucks more than normal. Somehow, through VERIZON (bast%$$$!~~!*), it's free for her to call me, but toll for me to call her. ?!?!

Posted by: yep at October 6, 2005 11:46 PM

Definitely broken.

I have it easy. From work (732 area code), if I want to dial another number in the 732 area code I have to dial 732-xxx-xxxx. From home (908), if I want to dial another # in the area code all I need is the 7 digits.

Anyone remember when all area codes had a zero or a one as the middle digit? I worked at AT&T way back when and to allow other digits as the middle digit took quite a bit of effort.

Aside: I have Optimum Voice (cablevision's phone service) and if I dial my home # from my home phone it connects me to my voicemail. I never do that since I get .wav files emailed to me when they come in. Verizon can kiss my ass.

Posted by: Jim at October 7, 2005 04:12 PM

I have Sprint. I have to always use 1. It sucks when I want to redial a number from my Caller ID that showed up without the 1.

Posted by: Eric Hosmer at October 8, 2005 08:56 AM

Eric - the phone I have, if I press the * it'll add the 1 to the caller id # I'd like to call. Maybe your phone has that same feature.

Posted by: Jim at October 8, 2005 10:04 AM

"BTW, Sean P, the 1 country code is not for all of North America. Mexico has a different country code. (And, technically, Central America is part of North America as well, and each of those countries has its own code.)"

CENTRAL America is NOT technically, or otherwise, part of NORTH America. Central America refers to the CENTRAL portion of the Americas, while North America (USA and Canada) refers to the NORTHERN portion of the Americas....hence their names!!!

Posted by: justme at October 9, 2005 03:13 PM

RE Central America

As far as continents go, everything between the Mexico/US border and the Columbia/Panama border is part of North America. Common Knowledge.

Posted by: Jim at October 10, 2005 10:46 AM

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