Murray Hill, NJ 11/11/11 - Long before we run out of oil, clean water, or helium, we will run out of phone numbers. Since the first direct-dialed long distance phone call was placed on November 10, 1951, the "ten digit dialing plan" has worked reliably. To solve the dearth of phone numbers, one more digit will be added to all North American phone numbers.
Crocus Validus, a representative of the North American Datacomm Alliance (NADA) described how we came to this number crisis: "Modern technology has given each adult access to: one home phone number, one work phone number, one work FAX number, one cell phone number, one Google phone, and one eFAX phone number. That's six phone numbers per adult, and this doesn't include possible VOIP, Google Voice, or MagicJack(tm) phone numbers. Add the fact that virtually every child has at least one cell phone number and the phone numbers per average American family was inconceivable more than sixty years ago, when the 10 digit dialing plan was created."
To help consumers remember the new 11 digit dialing plan, all North American telecommunications carriers will switch over to the new format precisely at 12 seconds past 11 minutes after 11 AM one year from today, November 11, 2011 - almost 61 years to the day of that first direct-dialed long distance phone call.
After 11/11/12 at 11:11:12 (local time zone), everyone will be required to dial 11 digits to place any phone call within North America. Due to the diminishing available phone numbers in large urban centers, the new plan requires 11 digits to be dialed, even for so-called local calls. Validus explained "We felt that it was less confusing to just have everyone dial 11 digits all the time. Most of us use speed dial on our cell phones, anyway, so it will not be a problem for most callers."
Unfortunately, the new dialing plan may require your telecommunications equipment to be updated to accommodate the longer dialing patterns. Business leaders and politicians view this as an added benefit of the phone system upgrade, since forcing everyone to replace their phones, faxes, cell phones, and some computer equipment will help stimulate the economy.
Validus alerted consumers to "Watch for the letters that your telecommunications service providers will be sending to inform you of your new 11 digit phone number. These replacement numbers will be selected randomly, to prevent the appearance of favoritism." When asked why not just add a digit to the front of all current phone numbers to ease the transition, Validus noted "Gee, I wish we thought of that before."