Friday, March 5, 1999
Hello, are you there? A look at Carlisle's phone services
When Carlisle resident Chuck Lewin moved into his new home on East Riding Drive, he immediately ordered his lifeline to the outside worldhis phone service. Almost four weeks later, the line was still dead. After calling Bell Atlantic innumerable times and being told every day to expect the service "the next day" or "by Monday," Lewin was then told that there was a shortage of phone lines in Carlisle and that he should hope for a business to leave town because then "several lines would be freed up." Lewin had been issued his actual phone number immediately but was told computer errors and facility shortages in Carlisle were causing the delay in his service. Repeatedly he was told that Carlisle "didn't have enough equipment."
Lewin wondered if hundreds of other Carlisle residents were being put on hold for phone service as well. Speaking to a Russian friend who told him to be glad he wasn't in Russia where waiting for phone service could mean ten years, Lewin exclaimed, "But this is America! It should only take five years!"
Shortly thereafter, in a February 8 newsletter, Rev. Eugene Widrick detailed the difficulties he had encountered when he tried to move the use of a phone number at the parsonage to the Unitarian Church building. Weeks of messages from Bell Atlantic which said there was "no new service in Carlisle" frustrated Widrick.
Concerned that Carlisle was even more entrenched in the agrarian age than we had realized, the Mosquito called Bell Atlantic to assess the magnitude of the situation.
While Lewin had been told that there was a wait for actual lines in Carlisle by one service representative, the Mosquito was told by several sources, including John DeStephano in the Bell Atlantic public affairs office, that this was not the case. Initially, he suspected that the physical copper cable to Lewin's house was either non-existent, as is common in new construction, or in need of repair. This seemed odd to Lewin as the 30-year-old house had two lines that worked like a charm before he had moved in.
DeStephano was certain that the problem was also not a shortage of phone numbers because Carlisle has 10,000 phone numbers assigned to itmore than enough to satisfy commercial and residential needs for years to come.
On March 2, prodded into taking a closer look at Carlisle's problems, DeStephano conceded, "It does appear that for about three weeks we had an issue with equipment shortage in Carlisle. At that time, [late January through early February], if you had called you would have been put on a waiting list." However, he stated, "that's been eliminated....Facilities were available about two weeks ago.
The Mosquito also heard that during the February 25 snowstorm some residents were unable to dial out with their phones. DeStephano explained that the phone company is seeing congestions on the network during storms due to a high volume of Internet traffic. He said the network was designed for voice call of three to five minutes. Computer calls average 35 to 40 minutes and when workers are snowed in, they plug into the network for five to six hours to conduct their business from home. By nature of its demographics, communities like Carlisle are taxing the network, according to DeStephano.
With the demand for services growing, Bell Atlantic is now installing fiber-optic cable. Residents have probably noticed the trucks which have become part of the scenery along Carlise roadways. The new cable will allow the company to add more facilities and, while the town's service is now from Concord, it could be switched to come from Littleton, if there's a problem.
Due to the growing demand for phone services, state officials have declared that more area codes will be necessary. Although there are plenty of phone numbers available for Carlisle, it does not mean that the town will escape another change in area code when the Department of Telecommunications and Energy's (DTE) plans are finalized. In a Boston Globe article last month, Governor Paul Cellucci attributed the need for additional new area codes to "the inefficient way that exchange codes are distributed to telephone companies in blocks of 10,000 numbers." Cellucci maintains, along with DTE chair Janet Besser, that were the blocks to consist of 1,000 numbers, the life of the city's four area codes could be extended. Cellucci also proposes an overlay approach to area code distribution for wire and fax lines, according to the Globe. .
At present, six public hearings are being held across the state to determine whether future area codes should be assigned in a split or overlay format. In a split format, all area codes on one side of a designated line change. Advantages include not having to use ten digits to call within a town; the obvious disadvantage is that existing phone numbers change. In an overlay approach, which DeStephano and Bell Atlantic strongly endorse, only new businesses and residences are assigned the new area code, while all other phone numbers remain the same. Had an overlay approach been used the last time new area codes were added, most Carlisle numbers would have remained unchanged. Though this creates a situation where some numbers in town have different area codes from others, and a call down the street might need ten numbers, DiStephano maintains that it is less disruptive overall. In the past, the state has voted in favor of the split.
Anyone who has an opinion to express on the method of area code assignment can write to the DTE at 100 Cambridge Street, Boston MA 02202, or call their state representatives.
© 1999 The Carlisle Mosquito