ND, SMC gear up for area code change
By SCOTT BRODFUEHRER
Assistant News Editor
For the next six months, Notre Dame, Saint Mary's and the entire South Bend region will have two working area codes while the 574 area code is introduced and the 219 area code is phased out. During this period of permissive dialing that began on Tuesday, callers from outside the region may dial either area code until June 14 when the 219 area code will stop working for the region.
Officials from both Notre Dame and Saint Mary's began preparations for the new area code last year to ensure that the campus infrastructure would support the change and to make sure all materials, such as stationery and business cards would be printed with the new area code. Officials said no technology related charges would be incurred as a result of the change, and it is unlikely that many materials with the 219 area code will have to be discarded when the 574 area code becomes mandatory.
According to Notre Dame telecommunications manager Steve Ellis, the vendors of various systems — including the voice mail system — have made changes to accommodate the new area code. At Saint Mary's, the voice mail system did not require changes, but telecommunications coordinator Sandy Handley reprogrammed the switch, a system that routes calls to either the local or long distance service provider.
The online phonebook at Saint Mary's has already been changed to show the 574 area code. The Office of Information Technologies will change the Notre Dame online phonebook within the next few weeks.
Both schools sent notices to departments last semester informing them of the changing area code and outlined procedures for ordering new supplies.
"A letter was sent out to all departments, advising them to use up the existing stock and then, when placing an order, to change the area code," said Tim Gibney, assistant director for procurement services at Notre Dame.
Although it is likely that some old materials will remain after the 219 area code can no longer be used, officials said they are not aware of departments that have much more than six months of materials in stock.
"Most people tend to order on a yearly basis so the departments don't think they will be left with many old materials — I assume there will be some additional cost [of changing materials], but I don't know exactly what that will be," said Nick Farmer, director of Marketing Communications at Saint Mary's.
Handley said she is encouraging everyone to tell family and friends to start using the new area code now so that there are no problems when the 219 area code is no longer functional for South Bend.
"I know there will be a lot of people confused and there will always be someone out there who doesn't know the area code changed, but my goal is get the other 99 percent used to dialing 574 so the transition will be transparent on June 14," said Handley.
Between June 14 and July 29, if a dialer uses the 219 area code to call South Bend, he will hear a recorded message advising him to redial the number using the 574 area code. After July 29, the numbers now assigned to South Bend will start to be reassigned to new customers and a person dialing the old area code could be connected to someone in the Gary area.
Those who own a cell phone in the 219 area code need to have the phone re-programmed.
The area code change for South Bend became necessary because the telephone numbers available to northern Indiana users were nearly depleted. To remedy the problem, officials from the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission split Northern Indiana into three parts, each with its own area code: the eastern region including Fort Wane, the central region including South Bend and the western region including Gary.
During the summer, a lottery was held to determine which region would keep the 219 area code and which would adopt two new area codes: 260 and 574. The Gary area was randomly selected to keep 219, South Bend was assigned 574 and Fort Wayne was assigned 260. The new area codes are expected to last for about 20 years until it is necessary to repeat the process of assigning new area codes.
All News Stories for Thursday, January 17, 2002