Switchboard operator Aaron Winiarczyk '09 has begun supplementing 646 with 786. "We tell people who ask for students numbers about the change, but 646 will work through August," Winiarczyk said.
St. Olaf's telephone service provider, the St. Olaf College Telecommunications Company, has purchased all 10,000 extensions of the 786 exchange for the colleges use to satisfy increasing demands for phone lines. The 646 exchange, which St. Olaf has shared with Carleton since 1993, will remain operational until Aug. 15. After that date, callers dialing 646 will be instructed to redial using 786 by a recorded message.
The area code and four-digit extensions will not change.
Switchboard operator Chris Miller '10 speculates that off-campus callers will be more frustrated than students. "I don't think the changing numbers will have much effect on the student body at all," he said. "The ones that will have the hardest time with the change will probably be the parents that call the dorm phones."
Ashley Huseby '08 confirms this sentiment. "The only time I use a land line is to call other people on campus, using their extension, so I don't believe that changing numbers will affect me," she said. Huseby's landline use seems to reflect students general behavior and indicates that most students will adapt smoothly to the change.
St. Olaf's pattern of expansion instigated the change. A Telecommunication Office memo summarized the situation: "The new exchange allows us to use more extensions as we expand into the Science Center, general growth and other projects."
Miller also notes how projects such as the Science Center will put St. Olaf at risk of exceeding its current number allotment. "We are simply running out of extensions," he said. As of right now, St. Olaf also shares the 646 number with Carleton, Northfield Hospital and a few other businesses.
The change comes at an opportune time for St. Olaf College Telecommunications Company, which became an independent service provider in 2004 under director Craig Duntons leadership.
Previously St. Olaf College, Carleton College, and Shattuck-St. Marys School had bought service from Qwest Phone Company in bulk under the St. Olaf College Telecommunications Offices direction. Now the St. Olaf College Telecommunications Company independently supplies phone lines to the above members and the Northfield Hospital at a cheaper rate. "It will save St. Olaf College about $4,000 per month, and Carleton College and Northfield Hospital will save 20 percent to start," said the Telecommunication office's proposal to become a company. "Becoming an independent service provider will slash costs for all involved parties." Profits unrelated to maintaining the phone company will return to St. Olaf, thereby allowing the college more financial flexibility.