Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Calling 511: Florida Daily May Be the First Non-Phone Company to Get Approval to Use Three-Digit Number for Its Electronic Information Service

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Calling 511: Florida Daily May Be the First Non-Phone Company to Get Approval to Use Three-Digit Number for Its Electronic Information Service

Article excerpt

The Palm Beach (FLA.) Post, owned by Cox Enterprises Inc., will be allowed to use a three-digit phone number for its electronic information service, the Florida Public Service Commission has ruled.

It is the first commercial use of a three-digit number by a non-telephone company, jim McKnight, vice president of telecommunications for Cox Enterprises Inc., believes.

Readers will be able to call the easily remembered phone number, 51 1, for personalized information, including stock quotes and advertising. By punching in a fax number, a printed version of the information can be delivered instantly.

The FPSC has agreed to allow only the Palm Beach newspaper to use the three-digit number for a two-year experiment.

McKnight said that the paper was given "pioneer preference" because of the investigation, negotiating and research Cox Enterprises has pursued with the phone company on the use of "N 11" numbers.

The FPSC has filings pending for similar service to the Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel and Florida Today in Melboume.

Cox Enterprises and BellSouth Corp. have recommended to the Information Industry Liaison Committee, a committee of long-distance telephone operators, to explore the development of a more ubiquitous code, said Karen Roughton, media relations manager for Bell South Corp.

Now only a limited list of numbers is available, 211, 311, 511, 611, 711, and 811. The issue would examine "abbreviated dialing" possibilities that would make as many as 1,000 three-digit numbers available.

However, to get to that point would "require massive software changes at every switch," Roughton said.

At present, the Federal Communications Commission is considering other issues in connection with three-digit services. However, on May 4, the FCC general counsel notified Southern Bell that he saw no impediments to the Cox request on a first-come, first-serve" basis.

Bell South is heading toward a "first-come, first serve" basis for customers applying for abbreviated dialing capability, Roughton said. The phone company will not be able to accept applications until state public service commissions look at the issue.

"Each state handles these issues differently. The use of three-digit numbers will come about on a state-by-state basis," Roughton said.

Unregulated local phone companies wanting to offer the service would have to go through the same channels as any other company to be assigned a three-digit code, Roughton added.

Cox Enterprises, which owns 17 newspapers in six states, has applied for similar services for all those publications. …

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