Thursday, July 10, 2014

For seniors, 10-digit calls a new test

570 for every local call just another thing to get used to

October 06. 2013 11:12PM

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Right next to the phone in her Kingston home, Violet Loyack has a hand-written note reminding her to make sure she dials 570 before any local call she’s about to make.

But old habits are hard to break and the computerized message she gets when she fails to dial the three digits has become a repeating occurrence for the senior citizen.

When the mandatory 10-digit dialing rule went into effect for all or parts of 29 counties that comprise the 570 area code, people found themselves reprogramming stored numbers in their cellphones and land lines and having to dial 10 digits to call their friends and family members, whether they lived across the street or across the state.

To many, the change is just another part of life, so they grin and bear it.

Gerry DuBoice, of Kingston, said you just have to learn to “accept things you have no control over.”

“It’s only three digits,” DuBoice said, noting that in today’s evolving society where technology has taken over three digits is among the least of most people’s worries.

“You have to remember different passwords for everything,” DuBoice said.

James Becker, of Newport Township, said he’s had no problems remembering to dial those three extra digits and he thinks if anybody has had an issue in the early going, they’ll get used to it real quick.

That’s just how Florence Wineski of Nanticoke feels.

“When you get used to something, it just becomes natural,” she said.

The four were among a group of 200 senior citizens attending a AAA health and driving fair at Luzerne County Community College recently. Most of those queried said the change is not causing any issues in their life.

“In the grand scheme of things in life, this is not a big deal,” said Ellen White, of Kingston.

While many are getting used to the idea of dialing 570 before local calls, there will be a new wrench thrown into the machine later this month.

On Oct. 21, customers who request new service, an additional line or, in some cases, move their service to another address may be assigned a 272 area code prefixed number. This means your new neighbor that’s moving in to the house next door may have a 272 area code instead of the 570 their predecessors did.

The new overlay is part of a plan approved by the Public Utility Commission a few years ago to alleviate a shortage of 570 numbers available for future customers in the region stretching from Williamsport to the Delaware River.

The PUC has been getting the word out about 10 digit dialing for months to prepare people for the change and phone companies have also done their part by informing customers about the changes.

Carl E. Erhart, an area vice president for Verizon, said the preparation has likely helped.

“Customers have had six months to get into the habit of dialing 10 digits when they make calls within the 570 area code, so disruptions … should be minimal.”

But all the education and outreach and even hand written notes aren’t a guarantee that people’s decades’ old habit will change so easily. Just ask Loyack.

“It drives me crazy, each time I make a call and I forget the 570 I get that message and I have to hang up and do it again,” she said. “I’m just still not used to it.”

Denise McCracken, a PUC spokeswoman, said to date no complaints have been received regarding the change.

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