Ringing the Changes

A couple of weeks ago – before computer problems kept us from posting to you – Bournemouth found itself in the national news. It’s to become the first part of the UK to require landline users to phone the whole number, including the area code, for local calls, even to next door neighbours.

Why? Not because there are too many folk needing to be connected but because the proliferation of phone companies has led to increased pressure on the supply of numbers.

Changes like these must lead one to question whether competition always makes things better for the customer. Remember when, under a monopoly supplier, directory enquiries were free, because giving out numbers meant more calls would inevitably follow?

How much simpler life would be with just the one phone company to consider. It could even be locally owned and controlled, as the Portsmouth Corporation Telephone Department was until 1913. Hull’s was until 1999 and is still independent of BT. Trunk lines are an unavoidable add-on but the GPO Telephones had a regional structure until privatisation. There was even a South-Western region that extended to Southampton. Wessex Telecom calling?

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