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I'll Take A '212' With That VoIP

Telephone area codes may be going the way of the Dodo bird. VoIP provider Vonage is offering its subscribers the option of seven digit dialing within the same area code for local calls.

Coupled with number portability for cell phones and the ability of VoIP subscribers to pick their area codes, the fundamental geographical reason for area codes is disappearing, according to one observer of the telecommunications business. "Five years down the road, the word 'area code' will be a misnomer," said Kevin Mitchell of Infonetics in an interview Thursday.

After offering subscribers the option of choosing 179 area codes in 40 states, regardless of where subscribers are located, Vonage took another step Wednesday towards rendering area codes obsolete by offering to eliminate them entirely. "Many [subscribers] have been asking for seven-digit dialing to make it easier and quicker to dial local friends and family," said Vonage chairman and CEO Jeffrey Citron in a statement.

Mitchell, who is directing analyst of Infonetics' telecommunications area, noted that the future demise of area codes can have its pros and cons. On the plus side, businesses can use a geographically distant area code in an outsourcing context to give it the appearance of having a location near customers. "You can appear to have a local presence," he said.

Some subscribers may have an emotional attachment to their area code and with some area codes there may be a prestige factor--for instance, as with New York City's "212" area code.

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