Inside the Capitol

Thursday, September 15, 2005

9-23 Area Codes

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- A few weeks ago, I wrote about how adding a telephone area code in New Mexico isn't that big a deal because it doesn't cost much to print new business cards or stationery, computers will do it for you and it's easy to look up new area codes.
A group of Albuquerque businesses obviously disagree with me because they have formed a coalition to be sure the Duke City doesn't have to change. They say it will cost millions.
Now I get a story from a former New Mexican, living in Los Angeles, about how changing area codes can hurt a one-person business.
Richard Hannemann, a singer/songwriter/guitarist/composer, grew up in Los Alamos and moved to Los Angeles, where he stands a better chance of making a living. His chief means of getting business is to "hand out business cards like raindrops in a thunderstorm."
He has moved frequently, so says there is no point putting an address on his card. He lists his name, what he does, his Web address ( and his phone number (310-836-9408).
Hannemann says the life span of a business card is generally at least four years, so continuity is essential. He says he often gets calls from out of the blue asking if he still is in business. Recently he got two gigs from a card he handed out at a country club seven years ago.
Here's his theory. He says people collect business cards thinking they might come in handy some day. (That's me, for sure.) Every four years or so, the average individual will go through the accumulated cards and call those who remain of interest to inquire whether they still are in business. If they are, the life of the card extends another four years.
Hannemann says that if he can keep the same phone number, when he is 80 years old, "shore as shootin'" someone's going to call off a card picked up when he was 40. But of course, in Los Angeles, area codes change often.
But the phone company and government are beginning to come up with some solutions, Hannemann says. One is called a "foreign exchange." If he ever decides to move back to New Mexico, he can keep his 310 area code at a cost of about $400.
Hannemann knows that when he gets a new area code, he loses business. The phone company does provide a recording telling the new area code for a year, but after a year, he says, he loses potential business on every card he has handed out.
The small business community and the overall economy were helped a few years ago, Hannemann says, by a rollover feature that allows the transfer of a land line number to a cell phone.
And then there is the "overlay," which the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission has considered. Current numbers keep their area code. New numbers go on the new area code. If that is done, the area code no longer signifies an area. It becomes a three-digit super-exchange.
The "overlay" is Hannemann's preferred solution because it allows everyone to keep their phone numbers. But maybe New Mexicans would prefer to fight about who has to change.
And don't be surprised, Hannemann says, if someday we get three more digits added to our phone numbers.
Turning to his sociologist side, Hannemann marvels at how self contained, but with a worldwide reach, that communications technology has made us. That's a favorite subject of mine, on which I wrote a column several years ago. I'm trying to find it to run it again.
My thesis was that we have become a world of hermits, holed up in our houses, watching TV, and no longer participating in community activities and helping our fellow man.
As Hannemann puts it, Thomas Moore was wrong. We are becoming more and more little islands unto ourselves, connected to each other only by the great ocean of communication.
FRI, 9-23-05

JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505
(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)



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