In the North American Numbering Plan (NANP), particularly in Canada and the U.S., the telephone number 811 has traditionally been a direct line to the business office of the telephone company providing service on the line. From there, one may perform some or all of the following operations:

* Pay the bill
* Order additional lines
* Order and cancel services
* Order and rent equipment
* Order calling cards
* Speak to Customer Service

On mobile phones, 611 is sometimes also used for this purpose. Many telephone companies, including Canada's Telus, are experimenting with merging 811 and 611 service now that neither will usually route directly to a human operator. Generally, an automatic phone answering system or other automated attendant will now answer both lines anyway.

All 811 services in the U.S. will end up using 611 by early 2007, as the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in March 2005 made 811 the universal number for the 71 regional services that coordinate location services for underground public utilities in the U.S. [http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DOC-257293A1.pdf] Currently, each of these "call before you dig" services, has its own 800 number, and the FCC and others want to make it as easy as possible for everyone planning an excavation to call first. This safety measure not only prevents damage that interrupts telecommunications, but also the cutting of electricity, water mains, and natural gas pipes. Establishment of an abbreviated dialing number for this purpose was required by the Pipeline Safety Improvement Act of 2002.

The FCC had never officially assigned 811 for any service before, but has not prevented its use either. In Canada, in July 2005, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) assigned 811 for non-urgent health teletriage/telehealth services.

At one point in time, this number routed to 911 as a misdialed call, but this operation has long passed from use. It was designed so that when someone was in a crisis, they would not be panicked by having reached the wrong line. However, the reassignment of this code was required due to the scarcity of N11 numbers.

External links

* [http://www.call811.com Call811.com]
* [http://www.crtc.gc.ca/archive/ENG/Decisions/2005/dt2005-39.htm CRTC Approval of 8-1-1 in Canada]

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