Area Code 710 is assigned to "US Government Services". According to the Wikipedia article on it
is only one working number as of 2006. It seems rather silly to allocate an entire area code to one phone number, esp. when it was assigned when area codes were rapidly becoming scarce (NNX format).
How is it really used? I assume that high level government officials such as the President/VP, House and Senate Members, the Cabinet, high level officials in the military/CIA/etc have 710 area code numbers, not reachable by phones not in that area code other than those with a need (home phones, those of family members). Correct, or am I way off base?
Area Code 710 is for the FEMA Government Emergency Telecommunications System (GETS). Basically a way for goverment officials at all levels (federal, state and local) to communicate when the government shuts down the regular system, or restricts it's use due to potential overloading.
I used to know a GETS program manager. Much of the system operation was (and probably still is) classified, but it supported inbound and outbound calls and used a reasonable use authentication system. There's a lot more than 1 number in use - don't believe everything you read in Wikipedia. In fact, I wouldn't believe much of anything in Wikipedia without a couple of other independent sources.
***** Moderator's Note *****
Central offices used in the U.S. have provision for _DIAL_ _TONE_ priority, with public officials and TDD users being giving a better chance of getting a dial tone during a mass-calling event, but to make an emergency phone system viable, it would have to be equipped to disconnect in-progress calls when no route is available for the priority traffic.
Is there any public information about the GETS system? I used to work on SS7, and I'm not aware of any mechanism that would allow the kind of traffic prioritization and override-disconnection-of-existing-calls that the military system uses.
Have you heard the phrase "I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you"?
You're way off base. see:
To make a 'priority' call to any PSTS number, you have to identify yourself to the local C.O. switch. You do that by calling the 'magic' areacode 710 number and authenticating. This authentication is verified by the local C.0. _without_ building a voice circuit to a 'termination point for that number.
After you've successfully authenticated yourself, you get another dial tone where you enter the PSTS number you wish to reach. And the call is put through on a 'priority' basis.
Because of the necessity for the _local_ C.O. to take special actions, one either had to use one of the '3 digit' numbers (N11 format), reserve a given line number (last 4 digits) in *every* exchange everywhere in the country, or use a 'unique' area-code. There wasn't any N11 number without an already existing declared use; reserving a specific 'line' number would have 'removed from public use' approximately as many 'usable' numbers as exist in an area- code_,
*and* meant that the C.O. had to 'inspect' *EVERY* call for that _last_ 4 digits. This means looking at a lot more calls than when you only have to look at 'long distance' ones (to check for the 'magic' areacode). In addition to that, older C.O.hardware (especially the non-computerized gear) did _not_ necessarily look at the 'entire' number at the originating C.O.
Putting the decision-point _early_ in the digit stream was a practical way to implement, without requiring massive changes to in-place C.O. switch hardware. 'Dumb" C.O. hardware was already punting long-distance calls to newer/smarter equipment -- equipment that had the computer-based smarts to provide the 'enhanced' capabilities required.
The GETS arrangments are public, with only small parts (e.g., the Presidnent's GETS number) classified.
The WIKI article is actually pretty good, and the various State sites, which a Google search will pick up, give some more.
Basically there are dedicated lines, or more likely, priority bump-capable circuits, between your local CO, the IXC, and the GETS cloud. Once you've got a dial tone and punch in your GETS number, you're supposed to be put through...
I just tried the number and got can't complete call; 113T, so it did get to a toll switch. I'll have to try that the next time i get to Beale AFB's switch. I know the military still uses a form of the old Autovon system which can knock low priority calls off.
On Tue, 09 Feb 2010 18:42:23 -0500, Ann O'Nymous posted:
My guest is that this is a relic of the TWX days. I believe 510 and
610 were the NPAs for TWX; perhaps 710 was for Government TWX? After the demise of TWX, the government may have special-purposed this NPA code for Autovon or some other specialized system, accessible only from lines that are authorized. Any TWX or Autovon experts out there?
- - Michael D. Sullivan Bethesda, MD
***** Moderator's Note *****
The 710 NPA was used for 100-speed TWX in the Eastern part of the U.S. Since the WADS offices were sold to Western Union after the divestiture of TWX, and were eventually retired, I doubt there's any vestige of the TWX infrastructure remaining.
The late Mike Riddle, who used to post here semi-frequently, shared with me a few details of 710 after Patrick T. here stated that the less said about AC 710 in the Digest, the better.
Mike was a retired USAF communications officer and had some knowledge of this, much of which I'm sure he could not share, and did state that it was a not very well known emergency government AC which was indeed tied into, to a certain extent, the PSTN. He did admonish me and others to 'never go playing around dialing AC 710 numbers to see what happens', implying that visits from jackbooted thugs flying in black helicopters were not out of the question. ;-)
***** Moderator's Note *****
I take a different approach to some things than Pat Townson did, and one of them is restricted access to public services based on unknown, secret, or undocumented criteria. The PSTN was built, and is now maintained, by rate-payers whom are entitled to _equal_ access with other rate-payers, absent publicly-debated and well documented exceptions.
We could argue whether "government officials" deserve special or privileged access to the PSTN during times of crisis, national emergency, or natural disaster. I'm not starting _that_ debate, but I _am_ wondering if this NPA 710 system is (or will be) used to grant privileged access to persons not in need of it, or at times when it's not warranted.
Bluntly put, this has the earmarks of political pork at its worst: a system separate from the military communications network, giving unnamed and unknowable persons the right to usurp communications capability from others, to be used for purposes which are also unnamed and unknowable. This is not a low-number license plate or some other token that conveys only symbolic power: this is a special lane on the highway reserved for "Elites only" and where the cars all have tinted windows.
Let's consider a few possibilities:
It would be trivially easy to set up "710" numbers that political hacks could pass along as favors to their contributors, thus giving out a status symbol which carries not only status, but a real, valuable, and dangerous capability, i.e., to have one's calls placed more quickly, and even to knock a competitor's call off the line, during time-critical events such as a stock-market crash.
Of course, the "National Security" would hide a lot of possible gaffes from prying eyes: records of which congressman called which industrialist the day before major legislation is reported out of committee, or the identities of those who booked passage on a particular cruise when a particular governor was also embarking, etc.
I think it's inevitable - remember, there are hundred of exchange codes within an NPA - that the system would grow to include privileged access for all manner of exceptions, with everyone from the cop on the corner to the school principal enjoying (and growing to expect) non-monetary compensation in the form of priority telephone access, paid for by the taxpayers.
These numbers, which would start out as "friend of a friend" giveaways, would in turn find their way into the hands of criminals that would take advantage of the "national security" veil to prevent wiretap warrants from being effective.
You might think me a doom-sayer, but I'm not. I'm being pessimistic, to be sure, but I don't think these concerns are unrealistic. If a congressman who wants your money could supply you with a 710 number that would allow you to interrupt a call in progress between a newspaper reporter and his source, or to eavesdrop on a call in progress between your wife and her lover, I'd bet you'd write the check.
During a "60 Minutes" program, the interviewer asked about his relationship with his brother, who is on the FBI's "Ten Most Wanted Fugitives" list, and William Bulger said "There's a curious thing about power: if people _think_ you have it, then you _do_ have it"! If your business associates or subordinates know that you have privileged access to the phone network, they will act on the assumption that you have power which they have been denied.
The GETS system is a way of distributing both the appearance of, _and_ the reality of power, and giving all manner of political hangers-on, minor officials, mobsters, and fat-cat contributors the capability to arrogate their own, private communications network - one guaranteed to work even when less deserving citizens are cut off.
Bill Horne Moderator and future resident of the gulag
There is also a wireless equivalent, "Wireless Priority Service", which is described at . Authorized users can prefix *272 to the dialed number to access the "high probability of completion" service already used for wireless 911 calls.
After the 1971 Sylmar Earthquake with restored emergency circuits first; old step days, after the Northridge quake circuits for non-emergency were restricted for a couple of days and in the effected areas for longer.
Many large companies have their own system that cover many sites around the world with internal numbers and dialing, the 710 is really not that different.
".... one guaranteed to work even when *more* deserving citizens are cut off."???
- - Regards, David.
David Clayton Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. Knowledge is a measure of how many answers you have, intelligence is a measure of how many questions you have.
***** Moderator's Note *****
It all depends on your point of view: those who are given power might think that they deserve it and that those who weren't given it don't deserve it. That's human nature.
In the case of a publicly-regulated utility, the theory is that everyone deserves equal access, and although the practice has never reached that Olympian ideal, the GETS system is a _big_ step in the _wrong_ direction.