My area code doesn't represent me!
May 29, 2020 12:40 PM   Subscribe

I've had the same phone number for about 20 years, and I now live nowhere near the region its area code covers (in the US). Does this mean that, when I call my representative and senators, they just ignore my calls?
posted by meese to Law & Government (14 answers total)
For tens of millions of people, the area code of their phone number just represents where they happened to be living in 2000-2005. For extremely large parts of the US, ignoring area codes from outside the area would mean ignoring most of their constituents.
posted by sideshow at 12:47 PM on May 29 [6 favorites]

My area code doesn't even represent an area I actually lived. I got a new number when i lived in Los Angeles County but the actual area code I got didn't match where I lived, worked, or purchased the phone. They gave me a number belonging to a part of Los Angeles I've rarely even been to. And now I haven't lived in LA for over five years. All this is to say that area codes are practically meaningless in the cell phone age.
posted by acidnova at 1:08 PM on May 29

I’ll modify the first comment slightly: the area code of their phone number represents where the person who paid their phone bill in 2000-2005 was living at the time.
posted by kevinbelt at 1:08 PM on May 29 [3 favorites]

As other people have said,no it doesn't.That said, I had this concern and also was working for populations within my region for whom the concept of a "local call" still meant something and so I got a Google Voice number in my actual area code and exchange and just pointed it to my cell phone. You can,to the best of my knowledge, do this with Skype also (though I think there is a fee involved for outgoing calls from a phone number with them).
posted by jessamyn at 1:12 PM on May 29

Sadly, I think the real answer is: it depends who your representative and senators are. Some look for every excuse to ignore constituents who disagree with them.

I'd suggest that when you do call you make sure to state your zip code (and possibly explain why your area code is not within their district/state).
posted by mcduff at 1:13 PM on May 29 [1 favorite]

According to this web site, the most effective way to make your thoughts known to your representative is via fax. There are free apps you can download to fax from your phone—one I used just recently (on iOS) is called FaxBurner.
posted by ejs at 1:13 PM on May 29 [3 favorites]

The thing is, back in the day, phone numbers were geographically based because of the limitations of technology (i.e., switchboards). If you moved down the street, you could probably keep the same number, because the new line would be to the same switchboard. But if you moved to a different neighborhood, you'd need to get a new number, because there's a different switchboard. That's not the case with cell phones, so it's common to keep your cell number as you move around. At the same time, the rise of database software has led to phone numbers being used as a means of identification. I have my phone number on everything from my bank account (two-factor authentication) to my vision insurance (they text me a lot; I don't know why), but I haven't lived in my area code for 20 years. Were I to change numbers, I would have to update it in all these various databases. It's more like an email address in that respect. Anyone using a phone number as a proxy for physical location is operating on an assumption that has been out of date for over a quarter of a century. So... yeah, I guess it's not out of the question, but I would be pretty surprised.
posted by kevinbelt at 1:17 PM on May 29 [3 favorites]

Another point worth making is that an intern is going to be answering the phone when you call, and at their age they might not even know what the hell an area code is, why we had them, why sometimes they change, etc, let along what area code belongs to what area.
posted by sideshow at 1:44 PM on May 29 [3 favorites]

Worse than all that is number portability and things like Google Voice (for example). I picked my phone number from a list because it maps to a (really cool A..Z string). Evidently I live in New York and not Los Angeles. Cell numbers haven't necessarily represented actual location since forever long ago.

Ob: Local number portability
posted by zengargoyle at 2:40 PM on May 29

Obligatory XKCD
posted by DanSachs at 3:58 PM on May 29 [2 favorites]

Seconding kevinbelt's info. When my family got cell phones in 1999, my parents were in the Bay Area, but I was in college in Western Mass and my brother was in college in Providence, so my parents got 510 numbers, my brother got a 401 number, and I got a 413 number that confuses everyone now that I'm back near 415 territory. My Boston-area 617/781 reps took my calls as often as my East Bay 510 reps take my calls with the same number; I wouldn't worry too much about that aspect as long as you say when you're a constituent.
posted by Pandora Kouti at 4:54 PM on May 29

Does anywhere other than the US tie area codes to mobile phones? In the UK (and probably all of Europe) mobile phones don't have an area code at all - they take their numbers from a different pool that isn't linked to geography at all. Geographic numbers in the UK start with 01 (except for London with 020 because they need more numbers) while all mobiles start with 07.

My mobile number links back to the phone company I was using in 2005, but thankfully not to the town I was living in.
posted by winterhill at 7:44 AM on May 30

When I worked the phones in a Hill office (which was more than a decade ago good God), we always asked for address, or at least zip code, when taking and logging opinion calls. I don't think we paid a lot of attention to what the number was. Especially because people were often transferred. It depended on how busy the phones were on a given day and whether the person indicated they wanted a response back (then we might need their whole address). So you should be fine, but you can always give your zip if you want to be extra sure.
posted by bowtiesarecool at 2:12 PM on May 30 [1 favorite]

I was a congressional aide from 2007-2010 and I agree with bowtiesarecool - the folks answering phones are generally somewhere between their late teens and mid-twenties, and they get that people and their cell phones are transitory and area codes are largely meaningless. Plus, there are plenty of valid reasons why a non-constituent might call, so I wouldn’t have just I ignored a ringing phone if a non-district number popped up anyway. Give your address or zip code, it’ll be fine.
posted by naoko at 10:33 PM on June 1

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