Telecommunications is a serious field of business, but in Florida there’s always a little room for good humor. In the late 1990s, the 407 area code used in the Orlando region was quickly running out of new numbers to serve the area’s growing population.
The Florida Public Service Commission began holding hearings to solicit public input on solutions to the problem. Self-described telecommunications hobbyist and space enthusiast Robert Osband knew exactly what the solution ought to be.
At the time, the area served by area code 407 included Brevard County, home of Cape Canaveral and the John F. Kennedy Space Center. Osband searched a list of unused area codes and discovered that 3-2-1 was not in use at the time. What better an area code for Brevard County, he thought, than a number suggestive of a rocket launch?
Osband attended one of the Florida Public Service Commission’s hearings at Orlando City Hall and pleaded his case. The commissioners were receptive to the idea, and requested permission from the North American Numbering Plan Administration (NANPA) to use area code 321. NANPA, the agency in charge of assigning codes, had originally placed the unused 321 code in a category of “relief codes” not eligible for use, but ultimately allowed the change.
On November 1, 1999, Governor Jeb Bush placed the first official call into the new 321 area code territory. He made the call from the Florida Public Service Commission’s hearing room to the teleconference room of the Kennedy Space Center. Robert Osband was present at the Canaveral end of the call, and was congratulated for his clever idea.
Brevard County received a memorable area code, and Osband got a little something out of the deal as well. Before the work was even complete on changing over to the new area code, he requested a new number for his cell phone, 407-543-8633. Why this number, you ask? Just look at the keypad on your phone. Once the new area code was in place, Osband’s cell number became 321-LIFTOFF!