Long-distance carriers knew that if a customer dialed its carrier identification code (CIC), such as 10-10-288 for AT&T today, the call would be routed to AT&T. This works regardless of whether or not AT&T is the chosen long-distance carrier, and it works regardless of whether or not the call is intralata or interlata.

Because the long-distance carriers knew that the average business would not take the time to dial the CIC, they installed autodialers, which are small electronic devices that interpret the numbers that the caller is dialing. If the autodialer detects the dialing of “1 + area code + number,” then it automatically inserts the CIC before the phone number the caller has dialed. When the local carrier’s central office computer detects the CIC; it automatically sends the call to the long-distance carrier’s network.

With this fairly simple technique, long-distance carriers were able to capture the intralata traffic from the local carrier and increase their revenues. The cost of a dialer is around $300, and as long as a customer used $50 or more in monthly intralata traffic, most carriers installed autodialers at the customer’s premise for free. The caveat of autodialers is that they have a reputation of being electrically unstable. The slightest power surge due to a nearby lightning strike is all it takes to reset the average autodialer. When that happens, your technician must reprogram the equipment. Keep that number handy for the next time a thunderstorm rolls around.

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