Area code 807 lost 7-digit local calls for no reason!

Following the lead of the United States, 🇨🇦Canadian🇨🇦 regulators have announced that, effective , the special telephone number 9-8-8 (voice) [9-8-8 (text)] has been implemented across Canada to provide access to suicide prevention and mental health resources.

That’s a good thing, which we hope will save the lives of some of the 4,500 Canadians who die by suicide each year. However, there is an odd side effect: any location that has local numbers like 988-xxxx will no longer be able to dial local calls with just the 7-digit number, they will have to dial 10 digits. Most of Canada already dialed 10-digit local numbers because of overlays, but there are four area codes that still had 7-digit local calls.

Area code 506 in New Brunswick changed to 10D in January 2023 in preparation for the upcoming overlay there. Area code 709 in Newfoundland and Labrador changed to 10D, effective . Their overlay was indefinitely postponed, making it seem that 10D was a lot of trouble to accommodate the tiny number of people with 709-988-xxxx numbers in Norman’s Bay, Labrador (population: 15). However, the projected “exhaust” date for 709 was advanced by nearly 4 years, prompting a scramble to implement the overlay, now officially scheduled for , so it has become a moot point. The Yellowknife local calling area (but not the rest of area code 867!) also changed to 10D on because there are 867-988-xxxx numbers in Yellowknife. Because most of 867 consists of discrete, non-overlapping pockets of local calling (i.e., unlike more populated areas, where often A is local to B and B is local to C but A is not local to C), there is no need to inconvenience people in far-flung settlements.

However, the CRTC also announced that the entirety of area code 807 (northwestern Ontario, including Thunder Bay, Kenora, and Fort Severn/ᐗᔕᐦᐅ ᐃᓂᓂᐗᐠ) would lose 7-digit local calls because of the 9-8-8 mandate — despite the fact that there is no 807-988-xxxx prefix currently in use or even planned for activation. That means that, by all rights, 807 should be the last area code in Canada that can still allow 7-digit local calls, at least until the overlay comes … in about twenty years. If Yukon, Nunavut, and the rest of NWT (outside the Yellowknife local area) got to keep 7-digit local calls, why not Northwest Ontario?? (Note that Thunder Bay itself was given a reprieve on mandatory 10D until ; see below.)

Update : The CRTC replied to my request for comment, but their reply did not address the issues I am raising here. I await further clarification. Their reply was, “The explanation for the 10-digit dialing transition can be found in paragraphs 90 to 133 of CRTC Policy 2022-234.” [see link below] Except that paragraphs 90 to 133 do not address the question at all!

Paragraph 53 clearly outlines why 10D is required in area codes that have a 988 prefix, but, again, 807 does not have a 988 prefix. Paragraph 61 states that 10D would “facilitate the process” for future three-digit short codes, but are there any proposals to create any other such short codes? 988 is the first short code proposed since the N11 assignments were finalised around the turn of the millennium. Paragraph 112 again underscores the linkage of 10D to area codes that use 988 as a prefix. There is no dialing conflict between 988 and 7-digit local dialing, so there is no technical reason to require 10D in area code 807.

Update : CRTC staff finally provided a substantive response to my query. In a nutshell, the phone companies in area code 807 supported the move to mandatory 10-digit local dialing, although that support was premised on the notion that all of Canada would move to a uniform dialing scheme, along with the idea that it will streamline the process if any additional 3-digit short codes are proposed at some unknown future date. TBayTel, the main local phone company in Thunder Bay, did not propose exempting 807 from the 10-digit dialing requirement, even though most of area code 867 is exempt. I remain unpersuaded of the wisdom of this move, but it is too late to change it.

Update : TBayTel discovered that the task of updating all of its equipment, and having customers update all of their equipment, to deal with mandatory 10D, was larger than they had anticipated. Since there is no actual reason for Thunder Bay, or any of the rest of area code 807, to change to 10D in the next twenty years or so, the CRTC granted an extension. Optional 10D must begin by , and mandatory 10D must begin by . The CRTC acknowledges in its decision to grant the extension, that the delay in mandating 10D will not in any way interfere with implementing 988. The thing is, there’s no reason to delay by only a few months. TBayTel and any of its customers with their own PBXs or similar equiment, could take their sweet time and implement the 10D mandate on the fifth of Never, with zero impact on 988. So all you companies having to rush to upgrade your PBX, you can rest assured knowing that this completely unnecessary expense is entirely the fault of the CRTC. 🇨🇦 Thanks, Ottawa!

Update : Mandatory 10-digit local calling is now in effect throughout area code 807. In all ten provinces, plus the Yellowknife local calling area in the Northwest Territories (but not in Yukon, Nunavut, or the rest of the NWT), you must now dial 10 digits for all local calls.