CRTC agrees the 311 phone code would help cities offer better service

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission has approved an application by a number of municipalities to use the telephone code 311 to give their citizens access to non-emergency municipal services. The Commission is convinced this particular assignment of 311 would serve the

public and reduce non-emergency 911 calls.

The cities of Calgary, Toronto, Halifax, Halton, Gatineau and Montreal filed a joint application in the fall 2003. In their request, the cities said they could give their citizens more value for their tax dollars. Making it easier to communicate with municipal governments would make their services more effective.

The purpose of assigning 311 to non-emergency reporting would mean that citizens could more easily reach the right services to deal with dangerous road conditions, traffic and street light outages, water main breaks, blocked or broken sewer mains, stray animals, abandoned vehicles and noise complaints. The 311 service could also be used to make inquiries regarding garbage and recycling, water quality and safety, public transit schedules, development and building permits, property tax bills, parking tickets and recreation facility schedules. It will be up to the municipalities concerned to provide a public awareness campaign to promote the use of the 311 service in their respective areas.

The use of three digit access codes in North America has been related to specific services.

In Canada, until this decision, the only code still available was 311. Access code 511 had been reserved for message relay service to facilitate communications between hearing and non-hearing persons. Both the 511 code, along with 811 (which was designated for access to the telephone companies’ business offices), have been reclaimed due to underutilization or not having been in service. These two codes are now available for reassignment, except in the Northwestel territory, which will continue to use the 811 code for customer service for residential and small business subscribers until July, 2006.

There is a growing demand for three digit access codes. We can anticipate more applications for these numbers in the future throughout Canada.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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