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Who's calling: Yell County Telephone Co. introduces new service to Arkansas.

Rural areas often are viewed by urbanites as the last to know about or receive a newfangled contraption. However, such is not the case in Yell County with its sophisticated, new telephone system.

On Friday, Sept. 18, the Yell County Telephone Co., headquartered in Danville, received authorization from the state Public Service Commission to implement its new Calling Number Delivery Service for its 4,250 subscribers.

The phone company serves Danville, Belleville, Havana, Ola, Plainview, Casa and Bluffton. It is the first in Arkansas with the system.

Calling Number Delivery allows subscribers to the service to view digitally the phone numbers of their callers.

Rather than wondering whom might have called earlier in the day but failed to leave a message on your answering machine, the Calling Number service can record the data.

Certain numbers can be programmed to be allowed through. Others are plugged in for rejection.

"We were fortunate in our change with our company, when we went to digital controlled software equipment, that we could include this," says Todd Sanders Sr., president and general manager of the company. "Since nobody else has it in Arkansas, we were the guinea pig."

Yell County Telephone Co. is in the process of installing Northern Telcom DMS-10 software-controlled switching equipment at all seven exchanges. The work should be completed by December.

Sanders says the company is investing $1.5 million in making the switch from some "very outdated" central office equipment.

In the process, the company has jumped right into the 21st century.

Someday, the rest of the country may enjoy what may be one of the best ideas yet from telephone research laboratories.

Unique to much of the nation is the Calling Number Delivery Service, mainly because of a squabble over the privacy issue. Concern has been raised in some states that certain numbers, like unlisted ones or some various agencies, should not be made available.

"In our tariff that was approved by the Public Service Commission, part of the order was that we would order a sister service called Calling Number Blocking," Sanders says. "Both the attorney general's office and |PSC~ staff were satisfied that the privacy issued was taken care of."

Rural Areas Will Benefit

Customers purchase a display device, starting at $30-$40, depending on memory and functions.

"More and more companies are adding equipment that will use this," he says. "But I'm sure it is going to be a number of years before this is nationwide. That's what people envision."

Rural areas may be able to benefit greatly from the service.

"It will probably be several years before Yell County will be able to afford a true 911 service," says Sidney Ward, director of the Yell County EMS. "Calling Number Delivery Service is not 911 service, but it is the next best thing. It will be a great benefit to our community."

The Yell County system offers a nocharge WARM line service. An elderly person with this line can, during trouble, simply knock the receiver off the hook. If a number isn't dialed in 30 seconds, a predetermined number is dialed by the phone.

Sanders plans to have a list available to Ward showing subscribers in telephone numerical order. Ward can know where to respond if a call from a WARM line is received.

Also, the Yell County system features numerous updated selective calling-type features -- part of a system called CLASS, or Custom Local Area Signalling Services.

For example, the system includes a ring-again feature -- if a person doesn't reach a ringing phone in time, a simple code can allow that person to reach the previous caller.

Sanders notes one particular early problem -- customer education.

"Most folks aren't ready for a phone to be as smart as it is now," he says. "It's going to take some long-term education to get folks to know what a phone is capable of doing."

Sanders' mother and late father, Ethel and Omer Sanders, started the Yell County system in 1939 for 100 subscribers. It has remained a family-owned business, but Sanders quickly adds that 26 other employees "make this all go."
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Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Across Arkansas: Northwest
Author:Harris, Jim
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:Sep 28, 1992
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