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

Re: Dialing 311? Hold That Call!

Anthony Bellanga (
Tue, 16 May 2006 19:42:18 -0600

PAT - DO NOT display my email address anywhere in this post! Thanks.

Monty Solomon <> posted Kenneth Pogran of Lexington MA's
comment to the Boston Globe:

>> 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 then Thor Lancelot Simon ( replies:

> This is nonsense. 311 is used in some of the most competitive
> telephone markets in the country, including New York City --
> and customers of all carriers can reach it just fine.

It's NOT nonsense!

Just because 311 apparantly works "fine" in New York City among
various carriers and service providers doesn't necessarily mean that
it will work just as fine everywhere else it has been implemented.

I see that Thor snipped out the rest of the original posting by Monty
of Kenneth Pogran's reply to the Globe:

>> 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.

This all makes *perfect* sense!

While the idea of 3-digit 'N11' codes is "nice", it still isn't always
going to work properly in today's telephone industry.

Payphones and PBXes aren't necessariy going to recognize 311 for the
function it's intended for. Some payphones might use 311 for their own
non-standard purposes.

The use of a toll-free ten-digit number is probably the best thing, or
even a ten-digit "POTS" telephone number, even though there could be
routing problems with 800 or 888 type numbers as well from certain
types of lines. But at least there's a better understanding of how to
handle "standard" ten-digit "POTS" and toll-free numbers by the
various members of the telephone industry when compared to novelty
codes like 311.

I've seen commercials for some local area United Way 211 numbers, and
they always semm to post a "disclaimer" on the TV or print ad,
indicating that if you can't reach the United Way on 211, instead call
this (ten-digit) toll-free 800 number. So, they're admitting that the
211 code might not always work from certain types of phone lines or
services in the community!

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