Watch CBSN Live

New Yorkers unhappy 212 could leave the city

Having a "212" area code has long awarded bragging rights to the New Yorkers living in the city the longest. A phone company's proposal, however, could change all that.

CBS New York affiliate WCBS reports that Internet phone company Vonage is petitioning for the ability to assign 212 numbers to customers across the country. If the Federal Communications Commission agrees, it would essentially get rid of the concept of location-based area codes.

"It's almost like a badge of honor," one man told WCBS's Weija Jiang.

"By switching 212 to anywhere else in the world, you're just ... mushing us together," said another man.

Bronx-born-and-raised Sedina Osmanaj runs Lumber Liquidators on the Lower East Side and has a 347 number - an area code he says is beyond annoying because some customers don't realize where she's based.

"With a 212 number, it's a synonymous with Manhattan, it's synonymous with New York City. So you know without a doubt where you're calling," Osmanaj said.

New York area codes also have cultural significance. In an episode of "Seinfeld," Elaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) tries to get her dead neighbor's 212 number after she's assigned a 646. When a phone company gives Carrie Bradshaw (Sara Jessica Parker) a 347 number in an episode of "Sex and the City," she similarly protests, "No, I'm a 917 gal. Always have been."

If the government approves, companies like Vonage would be able to buy sets of phone numbers from a federally regulated company, through a regional middle man. The numbers are random, based on availability, and sometimes happen to start with 212.

It's rare to get a 212 number in New York City these days, but it's not impossible. Phone companies say it depends on supply and luck.

The coveted area code started running out about 15 years ago, but keep popping back when someone cancels their number.

View CBS News In