Faced with a dwindling telephone-number pool, Telecommunication Services will soon be implementing a five-digit internal dialing process for the Homewood communications system. The changeover, targeted for year-end, will affect everyone in the university who dials within or into the Homewood system. The move to five-digit dialing was required due to the university's continued growth, specifically the creation of a campus at nearby Eastern High School, said Elizabeth Rodier, director of Telecommunication Services. Occupancy there is expected in March 2001.
"We're forced to have to grow to that fifth digit to open thousands of new numbers, ones that were not available to us before," said Rodier, pointing to phone numbers that also will be needed for the student arts center, Clark and Hodson halls and the new recreation center. In addition, there will be employees moving into offices vacated by personnel moving to Eastern.
Phones on the Homewood campus have a 410 area code and a 516 prefix. The Eastern High School campus will have a 443 area code and a 997 prefix. Rodier said that 443 was assigned because there are no more large blocks of numbers left in the 410 area code.
There are currently more than 8,000 phone lines--of an available 10,000 slots--tied directly to the Homewood communications system, an 11-node network with a main switch located in Garland Hall. The Eastern High School campus, once it is fully occupied, could contain as many as 2,500 university personnel using telephones, faxes and other equipment requiring phone lines.
The five-digit procedure will work just as it does at JHMI. Instead of dialing a four-digit extension for internal calls, the user will have to place an additional number before the extension--6 if the telephone number begins with Homewood's 516, or 7 if with Eastern's 997.
Bob Geldmacher, project manager for Telecommunication Services, said it is yet to be decided if those on the JHU Centrex block--which includes WJHU, Evergreen House and a number of outlying offices, as well as the Bradford Apartments--will also go to five-digit dialing. Those currently using the prefix 261 would likely be changed to either 516 or 997, he said, to incorporate them into the new dialing system. A full list of buildings and offices that will transfer to five-digit dialing is forthcoming, Geldmacher said, and will appear in The Gazette and on a dedicated page on the Hopkins Information Technology Services Web site.
"Right now we are taking a hard look at these offices and what impact a number change would have on their business," Geldmacher said. "If it doesn't make good business sense, one way or the other, then we will not go ahead with it."
The switchover to five-digit dialing also will impact those at other university campuses who dial a 516 or 997 extension. The new dialing formula is the institution's current Homewood tie-in code--for example, the number 6 at JHMI or 8 at the Montgomery County Campus--followed by 6 or 7 and then the extension.
Geldmacher said the switchover will be implemented early in the morning, during the holiday break if possible.
"We are trying to minimize impact to the university by doing this during a time when many are away," Geldmacher said. "People will leave work on Friday dialing the old way, and that next Monday everyone will come in and have to dial the new way."
The majority of the new number-scheme programming--switching the extensions to work with a preceding 6 or 7--will be done automatically, Geldmacher said, but there will be some manual programming needed. Fax machines, alarm systems, modems and telephone speed-dialing buttons that are currently programmed to use four-digit extensions will have to be manually changed by the users or someone within their department.
"Our biggest challenge right now is to identify all the systems that will be impacted, and to minimize the amount of manual programming needed," Geldmacher said. "We will also try to make ourselves available as much as possible to answer any questions that people might have."
Details about these impacted devices, Geldmacher said, will be made available on the dedicated Hopkins ITS Web site.
Rodier said she understands that the switch to five-digit dialing constitutes a significant change in customer behavior but said it is a necessary step in order for this growing university to function.
"I think, while there might be a learning curve, it's going to be a very short one," Rodier said. "But the good news is, with the exception of people moving over to the Eastern High School campus, letterheads and business cards will not need to be changed. A person's 10-digit telephone number will stay the same; we are not changing the entire network."