Non-emergency community services have won out over provincial telephone health triage services in the battle for the right the to use 311 – Telecom Decision 2004-71. The CRTC assigned the 311 number for access to non-emergency municipal government services, determining that it "would serve the broad public interest and have many benefits, including a significant reduction in non-emergency calls to 911."  Citizens will be able to dial 311 for such things as reporting dangerous road conditions, traffic and street light outages, water main breaks, blocked and/or broken sewer mains, stray animals, abandoned vehicles and noise complaints, or to make inquiries about garbage and recycling, water quality and safety, public transit schedules, development and building permits, property tax bills and recreation facility schedules.  The municipalities were competing with 13 provinces and territories that had filed a Part VII application to the CRTC to establish 311 as a national standard for non-urgent telephone triage services (NL, Sept. 15/04). Paul Childs, manager of business planning of the business intelligence program in the health accountability program at Alberta Health and Wellness, calls the decision "a bad news, good news thing." "We were a little disappointed with the CRTC decision given all the work and collaboration that went into the application," says Childs. "I think the underlying logic to have a N11 number for triage was good. The good news is that there are now other N11 numbers available. We are now talking with our other partners to see which of the two (N11 numbers available) we would be interested in." At the same time as it granted the municipalities the 311 number, the CRTC reclaimed the number 511, which was previously reserved for access to Message Relay Service for hearing persons, because it was "not in service." It also reclaimed the 811 number, which had been designated for access to telephone service providers’ business offices because it was "significantly underutilized." The commission announced November 5 that these two N11 numbers would be available for reassignment to other services throughout Canada effective immediately, with the exception of the 811 in the Northwestel territory, which will not be free until July 1, 2006. Childs adds that the Alberta Health and Wellness and its provincial and territorial counterparts have not yet decided to how they will proceed. "A lot of time and energy went into the last application, but we thought at that time that 311 was the last number available," he notes. "But I think there is strong support nationally for telephone triage." The municipalities are pleased with the CRTC ruling that allows any municipality across the country to use the 311 number to allow its residents to easily access non-emergency municipal government services.  "We are obviously thrilled. And we welcome this decision that comes almost a year after we filed our application," says Noreen Rude, a spokesperson on behalf of the six municipalities that submitted the proposal. The cities of Calgary, Toronto, Halifax Regional, Gatineau, Montreal and Halton filed their Part VII application for use of the 311 code at the end of October 2003, nine months before the provinces submitted their own application (NL, Nov. 10/03). She points out the municipalities will proceed with implementing the 311 number each on their own timelines, based on where they are at now.  "The decision opens the door for municipalities to move forward," Rude states. "How each municipality goes forward will depend on size. A small municipality of 10,000 will obviously not have the ability or need to accept calls of the volume that the City of Calgary would receive, for example." In granting the municipalities the right to use the 311 number, the commission considered whether its proposal met the CRTC’s guidelines established in Decision 2001-475: the implementation and strategies and cost recovery; the potential for integration of the 311 and the 911 systems, and the need for public awareness campaigns.  The CRTC determined that the proposal did meet its criteria, including a compelling need for N11 access or that existing dialing arrangements are not suitable, that the N11 be assigned to a service and not an organization, that the N11 service serve the broad public interest, and that the N11 service be widely available on a full-time and extended-time basis.  "The commission notes that although certain TSPs (telephone service providers) expressed some doubt as to whether a compelling need existed, none were strongly opposed to the assignment of 311 for non-emergency municipal government services," states the CRTC. "The commission considers that the municipalities have demonstrated that an N11 code is warranted for non-emergency municipal government services and that their application meets each of the guidelines established by the commission in Decision 2001-475." The municipalities had proposed that the TSP be given a three-month notice of having to make the arrangements to implement the 311 service on their networks. However, the commission ruled that three months was not sufficient for the necessary negotiations, network modifications and system testing. The CRTC set the official notification period at six months notice to the TSP operating within the municipality. Rude sees no problem in the extended notification period. "We set the three months period in an application based on another application for the 211 number. There is no magic around three months or six months," she points out.  "The commission considers that 311 implementation should be similar to 211 implementation, and is of the view that the costs should also be similar," writes the CRTC in its decision. It also ruled that it would be inappropriate for the ILECS to draw on deferral accounts to pay for the implementation of 311. The CRTC notes that the cost of implementing the 311 service should be considered a cost of doing business, and that each TSP should bear the costs of the basic implementation. Thus, the CRTC "directs the TSPs to assume, on an incremental basis, the costs of the basic switch modifications and network changes necessary for the implementation of 311 service." The municipalities stated that they might look at integrating the 311 service with 911, suggesting that one option whereby caller identification and location would "sleep" on the line and would be enabled, as required, to accompany the transfer of misdialed 911 calls. However, the CRTC ruled "that the complexities, including privacy concerns, related to the integration of the 311 and the 911 services, outweigh the benefits of integration. Accordingly, the commission determines that 911 service and 311 service shall not be integrated." The CRTC also ruled that the municipalities should be responsible for developing and carrying out public awareness campaigns associated with the implementation of the 311 service. The municipalities, according to the CRTC, are expected to promote the 311 services, especially for the purpose of minimizing confusion between emergency and non-emergency services and between 311 and 211 services."