Code switch crosses wires in Aurora

By Heather Condley Record-Courier staff writer Published:

On Aug. 16, Aurora will use the 330 area code with optional dialing, meaning

that people trying to reach Aurora can either call 330 or 216 until April

4 when the new area code becomes mandatory. However, for at least 90 days,

if a mistake is made and the 216 area code is used for Aurora, a message

stating the new area code will be heard.

When the 330 area code was instituted in Portage County last year, Alltel

officials knew that the 440 area code would be implemented in parts of northeastern

Ohio in the near future. Their hope was that the 216 area code would be

extended so that it would butt up against Portage County and Aurora could

remain in the 216 area code.

The company wanted to keep Aurora and other areas serviced by Alltel, including

Hudson, Richfield, Penninsula and Twinsburg, in the 216 area code because

a majority of those customers had local calling to Cleveland and not Akron.

However, when the map for 440 was drawn, Aurora and those parts of Summit

County serviced by Alltel were included in the 440 area code, according

to Dee Dee Cleary, senior community affairs administrator for the company.

"When 330 was introduced, we thought it was a good idea to keep them

dialing only seven digits to Cleveland. Probably about 76 percent of the

customers had local calling to Cleveland and only about 24 percent had local

to Akron," she said. "At that time it made sense to keep them

in the 216 area code. When those customers were put into 440, that meant

they would have had eleven digits to call both Cleveland and Akron."

State Rep. Ann Womer-Benjamin of Aurora said that she thinks the area code

situation is a mess.

When Portage County originally switched to 330, Womer-Benjamin lobbied to

keep Aurora consistent with the rest of the county, but later learned that

there were people in Aurora lobbying to keep Aurora 216 for as long as possible,

even if it would later change.

"I thought that was pretty atrocious, but we kind of worked things

out with the phone company so we could keep 216, but then switch over and

be consistent," she said. "I tried to do what was most practical

for Aurora. For Aurora to be an island is impractical."

Cleary stresses however, that no matter how many digits a person has to

dial, the phone numbers that were local before the change are still local

and the numbers that were long distance before the change will stay long

distance.

"There has been such a misunderstanding. If you have a local call today,

it is still local, only the area code is changing. For years people were

educated that if you have to dial another area code it was long distance,"

Cleary said. "We have really tried to emphasize that just because you're

dialing one and the area code doesn't make it long distance."

Cleary added that emergency numbers won't be affected by the area code change

and Aurora officials say that they aren't expecting any problems.

"We're not expecting any problems, but we'll just have to wait and

see," said Aurora Police Chief Gerald Dietrich. "The biggest thing

we'll probably have to do is change all of our stationery and our business

cards."

It's also important for residents of Aurora to realize that they are not

alone. Similar changes are happening all over the state and the country.

In addition to the 440 area code change that is affecting most of the current

216 area code, the 614 area code in Columbus is being split, Cleary said.

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio is currently looking into a complaint

by Parma and some other Cleveland-area suburbs that are asking Ameritech

to reconsider the boundaries for the 440 area code. Cleary said that if

PUCO rules that Ameritech must take another look at the boundaries, she

doesn't think it will affect Aurora, just the information that the company

will be giving out regarding what prefixes will be effected.

The new area codes are necessary because of the growth in technology. While

everyone knows that cellular phones, fax machines, pagers and computers

use up phone numbers, people don't often realize that automated teller machines

at banks and the gas stations that allow people to pay for their fill-ups

at the pump also use dedicated phone lines, Cleary said.

Ann Bloomberg, a spokesperson for Ameritech, echoed Cleary's explanation,

and added that the increase in the number of phone numbers needed shows

that the economy is in good shape.

"It is faxes and modems, but also all of the benefits of technology,"

she said. "(Changing area codes) is the price that all of us pay for

the growth. What keeps getting lost is that if our economy wasn't healthy

we wouldn't need another area code."

"I am frustrated that with all of the technology we can't manage to

simplify the area code situation," she said.

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