Wednesday, August 17, 2005

The Coming Phone Number Crisis

Bad news. We may run out of phone numbers again. Those of us living in large metro areas have experienced the pain of phone number shortages before. In the '90s they made us dial area codes for local calls and blamed the fax machines. Next they added new area codes and blamed the cell phones. Who's the next culprit, you ask? Pre-paid number-squatters. Let me explain: I opened a T-Mobile pay-as-you-go account last week and they promised to transfer my Cingular pre-paid number within 24 hours. Six days later it still hadn't been transferred so I called them today. The T-Mobile customer rep said she can't transfer my number unless I add minutes to my Cingular account. Why? Because "inactive" numbers can't be transferred. But, I protested, that number is still assigned to my old phone so if I never add minutes that number will be tied to my old phone forever! And if everyone does that you'll eventually run out of phone numbers! "I'm sorry. The FCC makes us do it that way," she said. "Besides there aren't very many pre-paid accounts yet anyway." Disaster is coming. Just wait.

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