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Local phoning will soon require 10-digit dialing

It’s not an April Fool’s day gag; the Yellowknife area is moving up to 10-digit phone numbers starting April 1.
Catherine Newsome, senior manager of communications for Northwestel, said that dialing 10-digit numbers are going to be a requirement for the upcoming 988 mental health and suicide prevention hotline to work. Jonathan Gardiner/NNSL photo

It’s not an April Fool’s day gag; the Yellowknife area is moving up to 10-digit phone numbers starting April 1.

It will be required to dial the full 10-digits on your phone, which includes the three-digit area code (867) followed by the seven-digit phone number for all local calls to Yellowknife, Dettah, Behchoko, and Whati, starting on April 1.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) stated on its website on Aug. 2022 that they plan to introduce a three-digit mental health and suicide prevention hotline which will be reachable by dialling 988. They also stated that the hotline will be available nationally for free on Nov. 30 of this year.

Dialling full 10-digit numbers is a requirement to enable the new hotline, according to a statement made by the Telecommunications Alliance on their website.

The CRTC also stated that they approved an application from Northwestel to maintain seven-digit dialling functionality for the 867 area code in locations outside of Yellowknife’s local interconnection region on a permissive basis.

Starting April 1, local calls dialled with only seven digits will be interrupted by a recording to remind callers that they must dial the full 10-digit number.

After May 31, local calls made with seven digits will not work at all.

Catherine Newsome, senior manager of communications for Northwestel, sheds some light on the connection between the 988 hotline and the 10-digit dialling requirement.

“The reason they need to do that is because in (affected) areas, some (seven-digit) phone numbers start with 988,” she said. “In order for us to allow those communities to use the 988 mental health crisis hotline, they need to be dialling the 10 digits first.”

She gave an example of someone dialling their neighbour in an affected area. If their number is 867-988-1234 and you dial the seven-digit number instead of the 10-digit number, the 988 hotline will be reached, ignoring the latter four digits.

She also said that Northwestel was making preparations to require 10-digit dialling.

“We have already sent direct communications to our customers who are impacted.”

Newsome said that radio announcements have been made in several Indigenous languages to inform people who are affected, and they have been working with some government offices in affected communities to help spread the word.

Not that big of a deal

Gabe Powless, owner of Raven Web Services - an online marketing service based in Yellowknife - said that he wasn’t concerned about the change.

“It wouldn’t really matter if it (was being changed to) 20 digits,” he said. “In this modern world that we live in, most things are going to be really quick.

“More and more businesses are getting their traffic and their leads through social media and through their websites.

“Social media and smart devices are in everybody’s hands nowadays.”

He explains one feature commonly used in cell phones that doesn’t require manually dialling numbers.

“Most places that your consumer would see (your business number), they’re going to have an option to click that button and automatically it’ll populate that number in your phone.

“I don’t think too many businesses will be greatly affected by that as long as they have a strong web presence.”

The 911 emergency hotline will remain the same.