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June 14, 2001

Changing the way local outside calls are made from Pittsburgh campus phones

Ever been at home and, thinking you were at work, absentmindedly dialed 9-1-1 for a long-distance call and instead reached emergency services? Pitt's dropping a digit to help avoid that problem, according to a Computer Services and Systems Development (CSSD) official.

The change will be made to coincide with the regional telephone systems' change to 10-digit dialing for all local calls, a Pennsylvania Public Utility-mandated adjustment that goes into effect on July 12.

Pitt will drop the 1 from the 9-1 dialing system currently needed to get an outside line on the Pittsburgh campus. Regional campuses, which do not use the 9-1 system, will not change. (At Greensburg, for example, callers dial 5 to get an outside line.)

Beginning July 12, all calls within the 412 and 724 area codes must be dialed using 10 digits — the area code plus the 7-digit number. The long-distance prefix 1 no longer will be required between the two area codes. (If a caller mistakenly dials the prefix 1 within the 412/724 areas, the phone system will ignore it and put the call through.) For long-distance calls, Pittsburgh campus callers must dial 9 (outside line), 1 (long-distance prefix), area code and 7-digit number.

These changes are due to the introduction of the 878 "overlay" area code that will be assigned to new telephone numbers within the 412 and 724 areas beginning in mid-August. Calls between 412 or 724 and 878 will be local calls.

"During this transition time, we'll make a software upgrade to our internal phone system that modifies the system to permit the dialing of 9 for an outside line, instead of 9-1," said Jinx Walton, CSSD director.

The 5-digit dialing system will continue to work for all internal calls, Walton said. For example, to reach a 624 extension from an in-house line, callers may dial either 4-XXXX or 9-412/624-XXXX.

Pitt maintains three exchanges: 624, 648 and 383. "We only added the 383 exchange in the past year or two," Walton said. "Each of our exchanges has about 9,000 numbers that can be used. We always can reclaim and re-use those numbers, since we manage that system ourselves."

So, if employees leave the University, their numbers are recycled.

Walton said the University's unused number supply is expected to last five or six years before any adjustments would have to be considered.

"What saves us is that the 10-digit dialing is something everyone is going to have to deal with at home," Walton said. "We just decided that this was a good time to move to just 9 on our system, which is the standard in the phone industry [for reaching outside lines].

"What we're concerned about mainly is making sure people are changing all of the numbers they may have programmed on their phones, for quick-dial, for example, and any automatic dialing equipment they use, including computer modems, fax machines, alarm systems and cellular phones, to include the area code."

Walton said callers also must get used to including their area code when exchanging telephone numbers.

The changeover comes at minimal cost to the University, she said. "We're paying only for the upgraded software and for publicizing the new procedures. We've posted information on the web; we're putting posters up around the campus. We're getting ready to send out a letter to all faculty, staff and students who are affected by this."

Walton said there will be three letters to accommodate slight differences in procedures, one to Pittsburgh campus private branch exchange (PBX) users; one to Pittsburgh campus Centrex system users, and one to members of the Greensburg campus, who are in the 724 area code.

Pitt converted most of its phone system from Centrex to PBX software in 1985. The move was made, in part, to eliminate charges incurred when an inter-campus call was made by dialing for an outside line and the 7-digit number, instead of the 5-digit internal calling system.

Pittsburgh phones on the PBX system include those with 648 numbers between -1000 and -9999; 383 numbers between

-6000 and -9999, and most 624 numbers.

Those on the PBX system can start using the new 9-only system and can convert automatic dial numbers tomorrow, June 15, Walton said. All callers must begin using the 9-only and 10-digit local calling system on July 12.

"We manage PBX and the old infrastructure is Centrex," Walton said. Centrex, managed by Verizon, services some units, such as Facilities Management, and tenants in University rental properties in the Oakland area. "Those on the Centrex system must wait until July 12 before dialing only 9 for an outside line. Verizon is not permitting an overlap timeframe for this change," Walton said.

The letter for the Greensburg campus will provide information on 10-digit local-call dialing and on dropping the long-distance prefix-1 for calls between the 724 and 412 area codes.

CSSD plans to add area codes for all numbers listed in the Pitt phone directory, which is issued each fall. Currently, 412 is not included in the directory's individual listings for employees.

Walton said, "If you try to dial a number using only seven digits, you get that error message: 'We can't complete your call as dialed….' This should alert callers to add the area code. Probably in a month or two we'll all be used to it."

For more information on the phone system changes, contact the Technology Help Desk at 412/624-4357 [or 4-4357 from an on-campus phone].

–Peter Hart

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