Alberta Health and Wellness has shifted its application for a national non-urgent health triage phone service to any available N11 number, but its preference rests with the 811 number.  A submission to the CRTC follows the commission’s decision to grant the 311 number, which Alberta had initially sought, for municipal services (NL, Nov. 11/04). At that time, the commission also announced it was reclaiming the 811 number from the telcos that were using it for customer service purposes. Alberta has submitted the same application as it did in its failed bid for 311, except for the number being requested. It has filed the revised application on behalf of sister provincial and territorial health ministries (NL, Sept. 15/04). "We amended our application. We consulted with our partners, the other provinces and jurisdictions, and we got consensus that we felt that the 811 number was the most promising," says Paul Childs, manager of business planning of the business intelligence division in the health accountability program at Alberta Health and Wellness. "The CRTC indicated that they had freed up two numbers, and I think that there is a kind of connection between 811 and 911 – they are right next to each other, and 911 is already available for emergency services." He added, "We’re just waiting for the CRTC process to unfold. We feel our application has a lot of merit." The CRTC asked NorthwesTel, which uses the 811 number, to file a proposal with regard to vacating it as part of Alberta’s resubmitted application. Anne Kennedy, Northwestel’s director of public affairs, tells Network Letter that the commission has given it until mid-2006 to stop using the number. She said that telephone directories for this year have been printed and are due out March 1 in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, and on May 1 in the Yukon and Northern British Columbia. Since the phone books include advertising for the 811 number as a line for customer service, she stated the mid-2006 deadline is appropriate. She added that NorthwesTel has put together a team of engineers to examine the options, but is unsure how it will deal with the situation.  Possibilities include adopting a seven-digit number as a customer line, or possibly using a 1-800 number, or somehow piggy back on the 611 number, which is currently used by NorthwestTel for customer repairs.  During the process, however, other phone companies wrote to the CRTC, explaining that they also had 811 in use in their systems, and complaining about having to vacate it. For example, Aliant in a November 11 filing stated that contrary to the commission staff analysis, the resource code 811 is not immediately available for reassignment in Aliant territory.  "The company wishes to advise the commission that it is currently using and has been using the 811 access code for access to its business office for a significant number of years. Access code 811 is prominently displayed in the introductory pages of the Nova Scotia directories and is an integral part of access to the Aliant business office for customers in Nova Scotia," wrote Aliant’s director of regulatory matters Bruce Heggie in the letter. "Any change to the way customers interact with the company causes confusion, complaints and a potential impact on the Aliant customer value index. A change to the contact number for the primary means of access between the company and its customers will cause significant harm." The letter continued, "Like any business, Aliant strongly objects to having its long established primary access number removed without assessment, notification and without the opportunity to provide comments…Based upon a brief analysis of the situation the company would not be in a position to release the 811 access code until at least the end of 2006." A joint December 10 submission by Aliant Mobility and Bell Mobility noted that the two wireless companies also use those numbers. Bell Mobility said it uses the 511 number to allow two customers who are in the same roaming area (e.g. two Ottawa-based wireless customers traveling in Toronto) to call each other’s Ottawa number without incurring long-distance charges.  The company indicated that during the last three months of last year, several thousand calls were placed using the 511 number. Bell Mobility also stated that it uses the 811 for customer service from wireless phones, with several thousand calls being made on that number over three months. SaskTel also indiciated in a December 6 letter to the commission that 511 and 811 are being utilized by SaskTel Mobility. Aliant Mobility and Bell Mobility ask the CRTC to stay its decision to reclaim the 511 and 811 numbers, and provide them with 90 days to assess the impact of the move. The wireless carriers indicated that a busy fourth-quarter would prevent from properly analyzing the situation. In response, the CRTC switched the deadline for comment on Alberta’s N11 application to January 28 from January 14, and changed the reply comment deadline to February 11 from January 28.  "These modified dates recognize the pressures on the resources of the wireless community in the fourth quarter; however, (CRTC) staff is of the view that the request for a 90-day stay is excessive given the alternative access arrangements to 811 that currently exist and the time period already provided since the November 5, 2004 notification of reclamation," states the commission in a letter issued December 24. "(The CRTC letter) doesn’t impinge on the application at all. It delays things a bit, because they put the two-week delay in there. But in terms of our application and the process, I don’t think it has any impact," says Childs. "It was obviously responding to the concerns voiced by a number of the telecoms in the correspondence. But in terms of the impact on us – I don’t think it has any impact."