TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Dialing 311? Hold That Call

Dialing 311? Hold That Call

Monty Solomon (
Mon, 15 May 2006 00:48:57 -0400

May 14, 2006

Ric Kahn's article '311' (City Weekly, April 30) hits the nail on the
head with regard to the desirability of a centralized citizen request,
dispatch, and tracking system for city services, but misses the mark
in suggesting that 311 should be the access code.

I believe that using 311 as the telephone access code for the
centralized request line is not a good idea in 2006. 311 works only if
all callers in the city can reach it -- if it's ''routable," in
telecom industry lingo. And with today's widespread use of cellphones
and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services such as Vonage or
Skype, that's a problem. The author points to Baltimore's success with
311 -- but that system was set up 10 years ago, when nearly everyone's
primary means of calling was a conventional ''wireline"
telephone. Today, many people have gone completely wireless, or
switched from a conventional wireline service to VoIP.

The article mentions that Somerville has instituted 311 service.
Suppose Boston did, too, and suppose a Charletown resident, near the
Somerville line, dials 311 from a cellphone. That call might be picked
up by a nearby cell tower in Somerville.

The wireless industry has been working long, hard, and expensively to
solve the problem for Enhanced 911 emergency services, and it's not
completely fixed yet.

The Menino administration is correct in advocating use of a
conventional 10-digit telephone number to access a central citizen
request line. A 10-digit phone number is universally routable.

Kenneth Pogran

Copyright 2006 Globe Newspaper Company.

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