When New Area Codes Mean More Dialing

"Painlessly Creating New Area Codes" (Sept. 16) mentions just one drawback of the so-called overlay approach, in which a new telephone area code is superimposed over an existing one. The overlay method is inferior to the traditional practice of dividing existing codes into new ones because:

* It forces customers to dial at least ten digits (Area code plus local phone number) for every call. Seven-digit local calling becomes a thing of the past.

* Area codes are no longer associated with a defined geography that allows callers to identify the location of a telephone number, and, importantly, to know whether they are making a local or toll call.

* Not only could a next-door neighbor have a different area code, a second line within the same household or business could be asisgned a different area code.

* The overlay scheme provides unfair advantage to incumbent monopoly phone companies that control most of the phone numbers with the older, more desirable area codes. New codes are relegated to would-be local service competitors. This situation makes it even more difficult for competitors to attract customers from the monopolies.

Fortunately, state utility commissions that oversee the process of adding new area codes have recognized the shortcomings of the overlay approach. That's why they have recommended the traditional area code split in 58 of the 60 new area code introductions since January 1995.

Paul Karoff

Boston, Mass.


Disadvantages of the B-2

Regarding "B-2 Goes Public and It Doesn't Melt in the Rain" (Sept. 18): The B-2 bomber may yet live up to the Air Force's and manufacturer Northrup Grumman's claims that it is "unrivaled in sophistication, lethality, and cost-efficiency." But it is disingenuous and self-serving to assert that "it is the only plane that can take off from the US mainland, stage a pinpoint raid without detection anywhere in the world and return home."

At the start of the Gulf war in January 1991, venerable B-52 bombers launched 35 precise air-launched cruise missile (ALCM) attacks against Baghdad. And last year, two B-52s based in Louisiana fired 13 ALCMs at southern Iraqi targets. Launched more than 500 miles from Iraqi airspace, these attacks were not detected.

Moreover, claims like those cited above ignore the 342 accurate, stealthy cruise missile attacks launched from submarines and surface ships against Iraq during the Gulf war and again in 1993 and 1996. Neither the B-1 nor the B-2 bombers have seen actual combat, and it is unlikely they ever will. At a cost of $2.6 billion apiece (including research and development costs) and worth five times its weight in gold, the B-2 is simply too expensive to use and too expensive to lose. As for the B-52s, the Air Force estimates that the present fleet of 71 aircraft will remain structurally sound until about 2030, 68 years after they entered service.

Stephen I. Schwartz


Director, US Nuclear Weapons Cost Study Project, Brookings Institution

Reminders of goodness

The Sept. 16 issue brought tears to my eyes. "And the Prize Goes to ... Movies with a Spiritual Dimension," "'Children of Heaven' Speaks to the Heart," "Loyalty Pays Off for Owner of Burned Mill," and "Family-Friendly Policies Go Mainstream" gave gifts of joy and hope and grace. But the front-page article "One Man's Road Back from Abuse" by David Holmstrom touched me most deeply.

Mr. Osborne's journey gives hope of renewal. But as compelling as his story was the relationship of the article's author to his subject. I once found an anonymous quote that reminds me of a view on the world one discovers through Mr. Holmstrom's writing: "The Christian prizes every fragment of human worth, claiming it for God."

Susanna Kate


Your letters are welcome. Only a selection can be published and none acknowledged. All letters are subject to editing. Please mail to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, fax to 617-450-2317, or e-mail to oped@csps.com

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