Our Telephonic Primacy

By William F. S. Miles | March 21, 2005


Americans often make this jingoistic boast in bouts of competitive patriotism. But on what basis? When it comes to the standard international ranking of countries in terms of human development (life expectancy, literacy, and purchasing power, as compiled by the United Nations Development Program), the United States comes in a respectable, but hardly chest thumping, number 7 (bested by Belgium, for goodness sake!) Even when it comes to the kind of measure with which UN-suspicious free marketeers are more comfortable -- straightforward GDP per capita -- we're still outdone by the likes of Norway and, Lord help us, Luxembourg.

There is one incontrovertible standard by which we are first, though: international telephone ranking. I am not referring to cellphone use: In this respect we are laggards, trailing 34 other countries (including Estonia). I don't even mean the extent of regular landlines, where we are again 7th, squeaking ahead of those loquacious Icelanders.

No, the one measure by which we are literally Number 1 is our International Country Code. When you call home from overseas, you need merely hit (after dialing the international circuit) the number 1.

Disappointed? Don't be. There is much we can learn about the world, and America's place in it, by examining the international telephone code chart.

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From: DevilsPGD Subject: Re: Level 3 Withdraws Request for VoIP Fee Ruling Date: Tue, 22 Mar 2005 15:34:30 -0700

But because FCC Chairman Michael Powell had left last week, the timing > was no longer right for a ruling, Level 3 CEO James Crowe said in a > statement. "The appointment of new leadership only three business days > before the statutory deadline for ruling on the petition" made it > "inappropriate to ask the agency to resolve this important issue in > the timeframe required by law," Crowe said.

To translate from PR-speak to English, they didn't think that the new overlords would give a favourable ruling.

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